Behind The Shot: ‘Sakurajima Volcano eruption with volcanic lightning’ by Martin Rietze – Kyushu, Japan

active volcanic eruption generating lightning

Sakurajima Volcano eruption with volcanic lightning by Martin Rietze

This image was made at an eruption from Sakurajima Volcano in southern Japan, Kagoshima province. Having waited for more than half a day it was necessary to catch this moment some seconds after the beginning of this eruption. Sakurajima is having zero to half-a-dozen eruptions per day, and only some of them causing lightning. This example documents the strongest lightning in a whole week.

In addition, it was my third travel to this volcano, and until now I never saw such a strong lightning. So this image is a result of extreme patience, optimized night photography, technique and luck. You have to prepare for permanent camera power, focus drifting, mirror flap damping, dew protection, volcanic ash protection, instant reaction after days of waiting time, framing on well predicted eruption position, perfectly matching exposure time depending on moon position, dawn development, lightning intensity and so on.

There are very few volcanoes on earth which produce repeatedly volcanic lightning, on other volcanoes you have it only once in many years during big scale eruptions. This two-second night image, made with a Canon 5D Mark II and 200mm f/1.8 lens has nearly no postprocessing, only some local contrast and brightness corrections. - Martin Rietze

Equipment and settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L lens - Two-second exposure at f/1.8 - ISO 800

To see Rietze's imagery including several more images from this series, visit his website at www.mrietze.com. Written in German, there are also several books written by Rieze on volcanoes and photographing in extreme situations, which are also available at the link.

Detail shot of an active volcanic eruption causing lightning

Sakurajima Volcano eruption with volcanic lightning by Martin Rietze - detail shot

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