A Visit to the Volcano

The Hawaiian Islands were formed from the eruption of underwater volcanoes.  The hot lava pushed up from the center of the earth and the islands eventually reached the surface.  Over the centuries, dust, seeds, birds and other animals made their way to the barren lava until the Hawaiian Islands became what we know today.

A trip to the islands should include a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii to view the still active Kilauea volcano.  The volcano can be seen at the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.  The park is open 24 hours a day and offers a visitor center, museum and viewing areas.

We arrived in the afternoon and after watching the video in the visitor center we headed to the Jaggar Museum to view the volcano.

 Kilauea Caldera as seen from the jaguar Museum.

Kilauea Caldera as seen from the jaguar Museum.

From the viewing area, you can see the Kilauea Caldera.  The caldera, a large crater formed by a collapse of the lava lake within the volcano, is about 2 miles wide and more than 3 miles long. Halema’uma’u, the main pit crater within Kilauea caldera, is visible from the viewing area.

 Halema'uma'u crater from the Jaggar Museum viewing area.

Halema'uma'u crater from the Jaggar Museum viewing area.

We were there right at sunset and as the sun went down the glow from the crater became more visible.  The sky went from being hazy from the steam and smoke from the crater to socked in with mist and clouds.  So we left and I decided to try later after darkness fell hoping that the skies would clear and the lava would be glowing

 Halema'uma'u crater just after sunset.

Halema'uma'u crater just after sunset.

I waited until about 9:30 to head back to the park.  As I left the main road and headed to the Jaggar Museum, the skies were clear, dark and full of stars.  The crowds were much smaller and I was able to set up the tripod and take my time getting the images I wanted.

One of Murphey’s Laws for photography or fishing is “You should have been here yesterday!”  As I was getting my images, another guy with tripod and pro-level gear said that the view the night before had been magnificent.  One of the NPS Rangers had told me earlier that the lava lake had fallen about 100 feet from the previous day, so the guy must have gotten those images the night before.  But I put on the zoom lens and got right into the crater.

 Nikon D500, 1/25 sec @ f/6.3, 400 mm iso 3200

Nikon D500, 1/25 sec @ f/6.3, 400 mm iso 3200

Since the skies were clear and filled with stars, I decided to experiment with some long exposures to see what I could get.

 Nikon D500, 15 sec @ f/2.8, 16 mm iso 1600

Nikon D500, 15 sec @ f/2.8, 16 mm iso 1600

 Nikon D500, 20 sec @ f/2.8, 16 mm iso 1600

Nikon D500, 20 sec @ f/2.8, 16 mm iso 1600

I decided to take a picture looking back at the Jaggar Museum.  The inside of the museum was illuminated by the two exit lights.  The exterior of the building was illuminated by the glow from the crater, although you can see one guy who was looking at his phone.

 Nikon D500, 10 sec @ f/2.8, 16 mm iso 1600

Nikon D500, 10 sec @ f/2.8, 16 mm iso 1600

I spent less than an hour at the viewing area and decided it was time to leave as the mist and clouds began to move back in.  But as usual, I had to take a few more just because.

 Nikon D500, 10 sec @ f/2.8, 16 mm iso 2000

Nikon D500, 10 sec @ f/2.8, 16 mm iso 2000

Later during the night, the rain moved in so I did not return.  On the "To Do" list on the next visit is to drive to the end of the road and then hike into the lava fields.  it is posssible to hike to within a half mile of where the lava is flowing into the ocean.  you travel over the lava fields and at points the molten lava is visible beneath your feet...next time!

If you are planning a visit to Hawaii, I suggest you investigate flying to the Big Island and visiting Volcanoes National Park.