Breathtaking Images of an Erupting Volcano and the Aurora Borealis

iceland volcano

The volcanic event of Eyjafjallajökull fissure in May 2010 may have shut down the airspace of 20 European countries, inconveniencing scores of travelers. However, weeks before that happened, it was producing stunning panoramas, and one daring photographer was determined to capture everything in his camera. James Appleton journeyed to Iceland in April and put himself in peril, just to capture some rare scenes unfolding.

iceland volcano eruption aurora

Happening early that month was the display of the Northern Lights and the glowing lava spewing from Eyjafjallajökull fissure. Appleton sought to photograph both phenomena at the same frame.

aurora borealis iceland

Appleton recalls the precarious situation then. “They shut the whole mountain down [in mid-April] but I got in before.” In March, his volcanologist friend had told him of the unfolding natural event,  prompting Appleton to leave for Iceland a week later from Cambridge, England, where he resides.

eruption iceland volcano

“I booked a flight, hitchhiked straight to the bottom of the mountain, spent one night there and the next day made the eight-hour hike to the top,” said Appleton. He had previously done a 75-kilometer trek alone in the Icelandic highlands in 2006, making him some sort of veteran of the terrain.

iceland volcano erupting

He further related his expectations of the exploit,

“I became aware of the Fimmvörðuháls volcano through a friend of mine who is an Icelandic volcanologist. I knew immediately I had to try and get out to see it. On the plane flying over to Iceland I had in my mind’s eye the perfect image I wanted to see, which was exactly this combination of an erupting volcano and the Aurora Borealis. I never dared to hope it might actually happen, but seeing it for real put all the hairs on the back of my neck up. When I saw the photographs come through the camera I was jumping around with excitement.”

iceland volcano aurora

To make a long story short, Appleton got most of his spectacular images on the second day he was there. “A lot of people don’t believe it’s real,” he said. “They say, ‘It’s got to be Photoshopped. There’s no way someone can capture this.’” Appleton takes the skepticism as a compliment to his work and stubbornly stands behind their faithfulness.

iceland volcano erupting

See his amazing work of the Icelandic volcanic event here.

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.