For many years now Paris-based photographer Olivier Grunewald has been photographing the Kawah Ijen volcano in Indonesia, where astounding, electric-blue fire can often be seen spewing out of it. Temperamental volcanoes are magnificent to experience firsthand, and very few people actually get the opportunity.
The treacherous conditions of this amazing force of nature are better viewed from afar. Grunewald however does not share that opinion, as he finds the intimate exploration of volcanoes to be well worth all the risks and dangers.
When he ventured out to shoot Kawah Ijen near East Java, Indonesia, he caught some pretty astonishing images. This volcano continually leaks sulfurous gases that sneak through fissures at temperatures in excess of a smoldering 1,000°F. When this extremely hot matter comes in contact with air, it ignites, sending flames bursting more than 16 feet into the sky. What we see are tremendous hues of fiery blue.
“This blue glow—unusual for a volcano—isn’t, of course, lava, as unfortunately can be read on many websites,” Grunewald recently said about Kawah Ijen. A quantity of of the gases compress into liquid sulfur, “which continues to burn as it flows down the slopes,” explained Grunewald, “giving the feeling of lava flowing.” Grunewald is able to endure the heat while photographing by wearing a gas mask to avoid inhaling the toxic fumes. “It is impossible to stay a long time close to a dense acid gas without a mask,” he advises. Unfortunately local workers do not have the same protection as they mine the gases for sulfur to earn a mere $13 a day.
Grunewald who is also an author mainly focuses on nature, landscapes and wildlife as his subjects. He began by photographing birds at the age of 14. Grunewald took up commercial advertising photography at the Goblins School of the Image, in Paris, and after his studies he started his work as a freelance photographer in sports, mountaineering and rock climbing.
Later on in his career he began to focus more on nature, as well as an ambitious project on volcanoes. His journeys around the world are done in collaboration with his wife, Bernadette Gilbertas, who is a journalist and geographer.
See his astounding images of the Kawah Ijen volcano in Indonesia here.