Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall volcano erupted on March 19th following a flurry of earthquakes that split the ground open. But unlike most volcanoes, this one has provided something of a viewing platform due to the surrounding geography. Filmmaker Donal Boyd lives in Iceland and along with fellow filmmaker Frank Nieuwenhuis, he created the short film above – Volcano For the People.
It’s an absolutely fascinating look at a very unique volcano that allows people to get much closer to it (safely) than just any other eruption in living memory. It’s such a unique event that it’s attracted thousands of people per day since it first erupted who want to come and see it for themselves with their own eyes. And those people became the focus of Boyd’s film.
Boyd also filmed a behind the scenes video detailing how everything was shot and what he wanted to achieve with the film. He also speaks about some of the safety considerations that had to be taken into account on an almost minute-by-minute basis. Even a slight change in the wind could turn the scene from a beautiful and intimate witnessing of a major natural event into a toxic deathtrap in an instant.
Despite the eruption site being relatively accessible, it was still a 2-3 hour hike for Boyd. This meant keeping their gear as light as possible (easier said than done) while also adhering to the safety guidelines – which were their number one priority. Volcanic eruptions are unpredictable and extremely dangerous, with most eruptions not allowing human life anywhere near them.
But despite trying to pack light, the pair did take quite a bit of gear with them. The main interview sequences were shot with the Sony A7R III, Sony A7R IV and Canon EOS R5 mirrorless cameras using a Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art lens. The longer shots of the spectators were shot using either the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 Art lens or the Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master. A Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 and an older Canon 300mm f/2.8 EF mount lens were also used. For the aerial shots, the DJI Mavic Air 2 was used and Boyd says that at times he needed to attach his strongest ND filter over the drone’s camera in order to wrangle exposure control over the hot flowing lava.
It’s still possible that the relatively safe status of Fagradalsfjall will change. After all, it’s pretty wild under the ground and new vents are still popping up every few days, spewing out more lava. The 7th new vent appeared just three days ago, with two others opened up last week.
As well as the two videos above, Boyd also wrote up his experiences of shooting the film over on the Adorama website. It’s well worth a read and contains a lot of valuable tips for those who might wish to go and shoot Fagradalsfjall themselves or are presented with the opportunity to film or photograph another volcano in the future.
What an epic look into what is quite literally the inner workings of our planet.