"Fire and Ice"

Fire and Ice is an idea I came up with way back in Jan 1992 while on the summit of Mauna Kea. It was a few hours before sunrise and I could see the glow from Pu'u O'o vent far in the distance to the south. From that moment I wanted to try and capture an image of the snow on Mauna Kea from the rim of Pu'u O'o vent with spatter or lava flows. Thus began 13 years of hikes to Pu'u O'o vent during eruption episodes trying to the shot. Regardless of whether or not there was snow on Mauna Kea I still hiked to Pu'u O'o when I could. I never expected it to take so many years.

The weekend before capturing this image I was at Pu'u O'o vent. I brought along a friend as I knew the activity was going to be spectacular. There was 9 active vents spattering lava frequently throughout the night. Some with multiple spatters. At one point in the night, all 9 were spattering with a total of 16 spatters shooting upwards of 50' into the night sky. I was shooting at 500ths of a second it was so bright. The vent shook constantly. This was the early days of DSLR's and storage cards were expensive so, I only had 2. Once one was full I would download the files into a portable storage device. I save the card from sunset and then the one from sunrise. Everything in between was deleted once saved to the storage device. Little did I know but, the device wasn't saving the files. Over 900 images lost! Something few people have ever seen let alone taken photos of. I found this out once home. It was devastating, to say the least.

Why is that lost weekend so important? It led to me making a return hike the following weekend. This time solo like my usual adventures. We just had 2 days of snow and the storm hadn't yet cleared so, I wasn't sure I'd ever get the chance. But, I just had to try regardless of how difficult the hike was. I knew the spattering episode from the previous weekend had waned greatly. I wasn't sure if any of the vents would be active that night/morning. And if any were, would they be the ones I needed.

When I arrived at Pu'u O'o's south rim late February 18th, 2005 the East Pond vent was spattering from its south cone. The pond was about 100' in diameter with a north and south vent/cone. The south cone would first shoot a 30' flame into the clear night sky followed by large slabs of lava. This would continue throughout the night in a rhythmic manner. It was magical. I left most of my gear down at the east spillway and only took what was needed up to the steep south cinder slope. I dug my legs into the cinder slope nearly to my knees to keep from sliding down the then 300' slope.

The current setup would allow for my 70mm lens. As sunrise neared the south cone started slowing in activity and I thought my chance was slipping away. Also, low clouds were starting to approach the island from the east. At sunrise, the activity had all but stopped. So, I waited patiently to see if it would resume in time before the clouds blocked my view of Mauna Kea. You can see all over the island from Pu'u O'o. Around 7:30 am the north cone on the East Pond vents edge started to spatter. During the day the huge flames are translucent. You can see some of them in the Fire and Ice image. The change in cones meant I needed to switch to my Nikon 180 mm lens. Time was running out and I knew I had to be quick. Just as I got my gear set the lava started spattering in short small blobs. The clouds had moved in but, not entirely blocking my view of Mauna Kea. I had 3 minutes time before the clouds did block my view. My 15th shot was the one. A full spatter at just the right time. I shot 2 more in a vertical orientation but, the spattering had nearly stopped and the clouds blocked my view. It didn't matter. 13 years of effort had just paid off. My vision came to life and I captured it. Fire and Ice was captured at 7:36 am February 19, 2005.

The sequence of shots image posted below, you can see in the second image my original composition. It was only 6 minutes from that shot to Fire and Ice. How I stayed alert enough to make all those last-second adjustments, who knows. I was 12+ hours into my adventure by then. One thing I don't remember is the hike back to my Jeep. 8+ miles of floating through the air I was so satisfied to have finally captured my dream shot. One of those rare images that few will ever have the chance to see let alone photograph. This is the short story. One day I'll write a book on what it took to capture this image.

Once the park heard about this image they asked if I was interested in having it as a poster at the visitor center gift shops. It has been there since 2006. Fire and Ice is also on a postcard, calendars, and numerous other park gifts. Years later my Lava Rainbow image would join it. A double rainbow over a lava flow.

Below is the official image bio that comes with prints and posters.

"The current eruption of Kïlauea volcano began on January 3, 1983.

Since then, lava flows have covered tens of thousands of acres, destroyed over 180 homes, and added more than 500 acres of new land to the shoreline of the island of Hawai‘i.

This image, which has not been altered, was taken from the rim of Pu‘u ‘Ö‘ö

(lit., hill of the ‘ö‘ö bird) at an elevation of about 2,000 feet on the East Rift Zone of Kïlauea volcano. “Fire and Ice” depicts the power of two Hawaiian deities: Pele, whose domain is our volcanoes, and Poliahu, deity of the snow.

On the morning of February 19, 2005, after more than 15 miles of hiking, and 10 hours waiting patiently for a break in the clouds, this scene revealed itself. Mauna Kea (lit., “white mountain” referring to the sometimes snowcapped summit), is the tallest mountain in the Pacific Basin.

It rises 13,796 feet above sea level and is 38 miles from Pu‘u ‘Ö‘ö"

  Poster


What Fire and Ice was supposed to be composed like until 6 minutes before being captured.
Imagine the lava spattering from the orange glow out towards the camera. Instead it switched to the cone further back behind the steam.

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