I don’t know if you have heard or read the news recently, but know this: a volcano is currently erupting in Iceland.
Last weekend, a volcano called Bárðarbunga apparently erupted beneath the great Vatnajokull ice cap in southeast Iceland. I say “apparently” because the volcano is located beneath 400 to 600 meters of ice and there’s no way to see it. However, there have been hundreds of earthquakes in the area and a number of fissures, several miles long, were seen in the ice above the volcano. The only thing that could cause that much melting of ice was a volcanic eruption underneath, so I guess it did happen.
Then, lava began pouring out of a fissure more than a mile long north of the icecap, some of it shooting as high as 70 meters into the air. This eruption is ongoing, and you can read about it and see a photo here.
The good thing about this is that it’s not beneath the icecap, so there is no ice to melt. When a volcano does erupt under the ice, all of that melted water, combined with the pressure, heat and gas from the volcano, can literally lift up the ice so that the water can run out and cause potentially catastrophic flooding. So far, no flooding has happened as a result of the eruption under the ice last weekend. People are now waiting and wondering.
So, what does any of this have to do with the rest of the world? Potentially a lot, as Icelandic volcanoes have a way of causing problems elsewhere. If you remember back to 2010, a volcano named Eyjafjallajökull (don’t even try to say it, though Icelandic people have told me that I pronounce it fairly well) erupted underneath an ice cap, sending up a cloud of volcanic ash that ground European air traffic to a halt for a week. This new eruption hasn’t done that yet, but that one four years ago began with a smaller event similar to the current one.
Going even further back, to the late 18th century, a ten month long eruption of a series of craters in south-central Iceland – one of the most devastating eruptions in recorded history anywhere – sent up such a cloud of volcanic ash that it caused a haze famine, killing 50% of the livestock in the country and 20% of the people. It didn’t stop there, though, as the ash also brought famine to Europe, and some people believe that this was the final straw that caused the French Revolution.
Of course, volcanic eruptions are certainly nothing new in Iceland, and there are many craters to be found in the country. Here’s a photo that I made of one on the Snaefellsnes peninsula last year. I was not planning to photograph this volcano at the time, but was actually driving with my models to a waterside location further down the road. When I saw this crater, though, the shape of it was so perfect that I just had to try to get some photos of it.
As the time was around 6:30 in the morning, nobody else was around, so Aubrey got out and modeled for a roll of 120 film, which on my camera produces ten photos. Unfortunately, this was one of the few good photos that I got on the roll, as most of them are blurry. As it was pretty cold that morning, I chose to work hand held rather than to use a tripod, as working hand held is quicker, and I wanted to get Aubrey back into the heated car as soon as possible.
I am also pretty sure that I used a fast enough shutter speed to be able to work hand held. So, then, why so many blurry photos? I can think of two reasons. The first is that the wind was so strong that it actually caused me to move during the exposures. The second is that I was hurrying so much to finish the roll and get Aubrey back in the car that I wasn’t setting myself properly and moved during the exposure. Whatever it was, I’m glad that I at least got this photo.
It didn’t end there, though. Fast forward a year, and on this year’s trip to Iceland I actually climbed to the top of this volcano twice in one day – one time with each model. I haven’t got that film developed yet, so hopefully there will be nothing blurry there. At least I used a tripod for one roll this time.
About Dave Rudin
Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.