See How the Volcanoman Got These Hot Lava Photos

Nothing triggers the flight reflex like an exploding volcano — but not for a guy like Brad Lewis.
Brad Lewis final image from Pu'u O'o vent
The final shot at Pu'u O'o vent © G. Brad Lewis
By Will Gray

Brad Lewis is known as "The Volcanoman," not surprisingly, for his breathtaking imagery of flowing lava and live volcanic activity. His photographs are incredible, but the behind-the-scenes shots of how he got them are just as mind-blowing.

Here, he tells us the stories behind some of his most amazing shots, all taken on the Big Island of Hawaii on the highly active Kilauea Volcano.

He escaped lava to get the shot above

Lewis: "We flew in by helicopter just as the lava lake was about to overflow. The biggest challenge was avoiding the fumes and escaping the fast-moving lava once it finally did break out."

Brad Lewis shooting at Pu'u O'o vent, Hawaii
A shoot at Pu'u O'o vent © G. Brad Lewis

 

He had to dodge poisonous fumes, too

Brad Lewis shooting an active volcano at Kalapana, Hawaii
A space-age final shot © G. Brad Lewis

"We were quite far away from the activity, but with volcanoes sometimes the things you can’t see are as dangerous as the things you can, and here the poisonous volcanic fumes were abundant."

Brad Lewis shooting at Pu'u O'o vent, Hawaii
Looking over volvanic activity from afar © G. Brad Lewis

 

This shot involved a hike over hot lava

Brad Lewis shooting an active volcano at Kalapana, Hawaii
Getting this shot meant getting up close © G. Brad Lewis

"We hiked miles over hot lava to get here and it was extremely dangerous. The explosions, which were caused by ocean water entering the lava tube system, were some of the biggest I have ever experienced."

Brad Lewis shooting an active volcano at Kalapana, Hawaii
A dangerous hike to reach Kalapana © G. Brad Lewis

 

Flying lava could have spoiled this shot

Brad Lewis shooting an active volcano at Kalapana, Hawaii
Shooting a lava field © G. Brad Lewis

"We were walking over lava that had been flowing little more than an hour earlier and there were occasional surprise explosions that sent hot lava flying through the air."

Brad Lewis shooting an active volcano at Kamoamoa, Hawaii
Explosions made volcano photography dangerous © G. Brad Lewis

 

On a cliff's edge

Brad Lewis shooting an active volcano at Kalapana, Hawaii
The result of shooting from the edge of a cliff © G. Brad Lewis

"This is an incredible place to be, to see the molten lava flowing down over the edge and into the sea. It was not too dangerous here, but it’s pretty hot underfoot and you have to keep your wits about you."

Brad Lewis shooting an active volcano at Kamoamoa, Hawaii
Photography on the edge © G. Brad Lewis

 

Getting this shot meant getting inventive

Brad Lewis shooting an active volcano at Kalapana, Hawaii
An underwater volcano © G. Brad Lewis

"We kayaked in from a distant cliff put-in and it was seriously dangerous. Big waves tried to sweep us into the hot lava and we had to do everything to avoid capsizing because the sea was boiling hot."

Brad Lewis shooting an active volcano at Kalapana, Hawaii
Kayaking towards an active volcano © G. Brad Lewis

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