Shooting the Iceland Eruptions with Jim Graham

When we heard that PWD customer and photojournalist Jim Graham visited Iceland during the recent eruptions, we had to get his story.  Below, Jim recounts his visit and shares some pictures of the amazing Icelandic landscapes.

As the world is now well aware, Iceland is a volcanic island.  The islanders expect eruptions and can almost predict them.  Shortly before the end of March I received two emails from friends in Iceland; there was a new eruption.  My friend Raganar had been to the site, bringing back images which were lovely, even seducing.

Though I’d made the trip twice to the island over the past two summers, I considered returning once again.  Work was quiet, after all, and I knew I could be home in time for two weddings I was scheduled to shoot at the end of April.  After securing a commitment for a web gallery from USA Today , the financial issues were out of the way, and I made the decision to go.

It’s a five hour flight to Keflavik and another forty-five minutes to Reykjavik.  Add to that a seven hour drive to the hotel and a three and a half hour drive over a glacier in a super jeep because weather conditions were too bad for a helicopter flight.  Even worse, I received news at that point the lava flow was subsiding.

Still, we headed for the summit and the three cones which had formed.  We drove through high winds, rain, fog and the clouds enshrouding the glacier.  Finally, we broke through the clouds and fog into sunshine and made a turn around a rise to find three German women posing topless for a photo in front of the now dormant volcano.  The driver hit the breaks and turned sharply, messing up my own photo of the…landscape.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the steaming lava field, and I shot well into the evening.  We hoped for some residual glow or maybe even a chance at seeing the northern lights.  Unfortunately, it was too warm and clouds moved in again.  We left the glacier and headed back to the hotel.

On Wednesday, I received word of several earthquakes up on the glacier.  Something was happening.  A new fissure opened, emitting smoke and ash.  While the first eruption had been between glaciers, this new one was under one.  This led to a danger of the lowlands below flooding, and, as result, seven hundred people were evacuated from their homes and farms.

Sure enough, the volcano melted the ice above, sending torrents down the mountain toward the sea.  The bridge and causeway at Skatefell were breached and some farmland was damaged.

Through shear luck I got a seat on one of the the first helicopters out after the flooding and made some of the first images of the smoke and ash cloud currently hampering commercial air travel throughout Northern Europe.

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  1. […] Al wasn’t flying overhead when it blew!  You can see more volcano pics from this eruption here.  TTFN  […]