Martin Rietze*

01.04.2011 in22:59 in Miscellaneous -->


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Most people would think themselves unlucky if they passed a volcano as it erupted, but this counts as a good day at the office for one photographer.

Martin Rietze is part of a select group of volcano-chasers who seek out the exploding phenomena, and braves huge electric storms and boiling lava to get the perfect shots.

The 45-year-old travels around the world’s volcano hotspots, from Costa Rica to Italy, in his pursuit of Earth’s greatest fiery spectacle.

But Mr Rietze is undaunted by the challenges of his profession likening it to an extreme sport. In fact he says he has had had fewer mishaps chasing eruptions than when mountain climbing.

Mr Rietze relishes the dramatic encounters despite the danger.

He told the Mail Online: ‘I will never ever forget those moments surrounded by poisonous gas, feeling the heat of the flowing and bubbling lava and hearing noises louder than a plane taking off.

‘Sometimes your body can feel the shockwaves and the ground is shaking.’

However, he said: ‘There is a big difference between a tourist and a long-term experienced observer.

‘One has to know when it is safe to come near and when it is a matter of survival to stay away, sometimes many miles away.’


Mr Rietze used his vast pool of experience to capture a dramatic shot of volcanic lightning at Sakurajima volcano in Japan last month.

Scientists are still uncertain as to why lightning occurs during some eruptions. One theory is that it is caused by charge-inducing collisions in volcanic dust.

A great deal of planning goes into Mr Rietze’s expeditions. He tries to catch volcanoes when they are their highest levels of activity, but calculating the ups and downs of the eruptions can take days to complete.

‘For long distance destinations I have to invest a fortnight to give myself a good chance of getting some decent shots,’ he said.

‘In principle a volcano can erupt at any time, day and night. This means you have to wait as long as you can for something spectacular, including whole nights.

‘So if the weather is good I must be patient and wait for it to erupt, whether it is lunchtime or two in the morning.’

The photographer, from Germany, said each volcano requires a different approach.

He gives active stratovolcanos a wider berth as they can throw out lava bombs that travel several miles and create pyroclastic flows.

These flows are currents of hot gas and rock that reach temperatures of 1,000C and travel up to 500MPH. Such a deadly surge destroyed Pompeii in 79AD.

However, ‘red volcanoes’ create meandering lava flows and pyrotechnic displays that can be viewed from relatively nearby.The magma wells up to form new land in the sea, such as Kilauea on Hawaii.

‘Here it is possible to have virtual contact with the volcano,’ Mr Rietze said.

‘If fitted with a proper gas mask, helmet and protective clothing, you can stand a few dozen feet away from boiling lava lakes. It is an experience you will never forget.’

But he added: ‘When you get this close the camera equipment ages instantly. Sulphuric gasses and acids can destroy the electronics and lens coatings very quickly.’

Mr Rietze has loved watching volcanoes ever since he saw Mount Etna erupt in Sicily as a young boy, and has no plans to give up his risky career.

‘I feel like I’m watching Earth’s natural fireworks,’ he said.

‘It was a childhood dream to watch volcanoes and that fascination will stay with me forever.’

These flows are currents of hot gas and rock that reach temperatures of 1,000C and travel up to 500MPH. Such a deadly surge destroyed Pompeii in 79AD.

However, ‘red volcanoes’ create meandering lava flows and pyrotechnic displays that can be viewed from relatively nearby.The magma wells up to form new land in the sea, such as Kilauea on Hawaii.

‘Here it is possible to have virtual contact with the volcano,’ Mr Rietze said.

‘If fitted with a proper gas mask, helmet and protective clothing, you can stand a few dozen feet away from boiling lava lakes. It is an experience you will never forget.’

But he added: ‘When you get this close the camera equipment ages instantly. Sulphuric gasses and acids can destroy the electronics and lens coatings very quickly.’

Mr Rietze has loved watching volcanoes ever since he saw Mount Etna erupt in Sicily as a young boy, and has no plans to give up his risky career.

‘I feel like I’m watching Earth’s natural fireworks,’ he said.

‘It was a childhood dream to watch volcanoes and that fascination will stay with me forever.’

Volcanoes

Northern lights…