I got to shoot the Litli-Hrútur volcano eruption almost by accident. I just happened to be in the area, as the saying goes. That said, I think that luck counts, and I would like to share my experience with you.
I flew to Iceland for a volcano-agnostic photography gig – shooting for a fashion brand from the States. But knowing I was going to be in Iceland, I knew I had to make the most of it and stay longer. I mean, flying all the way to Iceland for just two days? No way!
Looking at the odds
After my work, I got to explore Iceland a bit more, and then I hopped over to the Faroe Islands for a five-day adventure. I’d been wanting to go there for ages, and it’s just as fantastic as Iceland, honestly.
While I was exploring these breathtaking places, I kept seeing posts on Facebook that there might be a volcanic eruption in Iceland soon. A bit scary, right? But in Iceland, volcanic eruptions aren’t that rare. There were eruptions in both 2021 and 2022. The tricky bit is that no one can predict when or where exactly an eruption will happen.
As my time in the Faroe Islands was winding down, I was constantly checking for updates on the potential eruption. On my last day there, I had a tough decision to make: stay in the Faroe Islands for two more days or go back to Iceland and wait for the eruption. I decided to go back to Iceland, wait it out for a couple of days, and, if nothing happened, head back home.
The day after I arrived back in Iceland, it happened! The moment I connected to the internet, I saw a Facebook update that the volcano had started erupting. It felt like destiny! I was super lucky to have some friends from Israel also traveling in Iceland with a car. They picked me up from Reykjavík, the capital city, and we drove straight to the volcano.
The journey to the eruption site wasn’t easy, though. It was a 10 km hike each way, and there wasn’t much information about how to get there because the eruption had just happened. But we managed to figure it out and made it to the mountain around midnight. Seeing the lava erupting was surreal. It’s hard to put into words the enormity and the feeling of standing so close to a brand-new volcano.
I wasted no time and started taking pictures right away. I used my drone to capture images from every angle I could think of. There were about 20 other people there, and we were all in awe of the spectacle.
But this amazing experience wasn’t without its dangers. The lava was spreading, and the levels of toxic gases were rising. Some scientists were there to monitor the situation, and they warned us that these gases could harm your body over time, even though you can’t smell them. Eventually, the authorities asked us to leave because it was getting too dangerous. We headed back to the car, tired but thrilled with the experience.
After a day of rest and editing my photos in Reykjavík, I went back to the eruption site when it was opened to the public. This time, there were hundreds of people, and the eruption looked completely different. I stayed there from the afternoon until the next morning, taking pictures and observing how the landscape changed as the sun set and rose again.
The equipment I used included my main camera, the Sony A7IV (here), a Tamron 28-75 f2.8 (here), a Tamron 17-35 f2.8 (here), Sony 70-200 f4 (here), and a DJI Mavic Air 2S drone (DJI Mavic Air 2S drone).
Even though this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it was also quite dangerous. The volcano and the flowing lava are unpredictable and can change form constantly. You have to stay alert and make sure you’re safe at all times. Unfortunately, some people were careless and got too close to the erupting lava, which led to the site being closed to visitors shortly after I left.
About the author
Idan Arad is a travel and lifestyle photographer based in Tel Aviv, Israel. His work spans over 24 countries, including Namibia, Mongolia, India, Tanzania, and Norway. You can see more of Idan’s work and travel workshops on his website, Youtube, and Instagram account.