Sometimes you don’t realize how lucky you have been, though you always seem to realize immediately when you have been unlucky. I can safely admit that with a few exceptions (known only to me), I can truly feel that I have been lucky because of the sight I beheld Thursday night. April 22nd is a national holiday here in Iceland as it heralds the first official day of summer. Never mind that when I drove to the town of Vik it was a white-out blizzard or that the temperature never gets much above freezing during the day. The day was a special one for the whole country, and with clear skies I wanted to make sure I got a good parting photo of my volcano friend before I packed up my bags and headed back to New York.

I was staying in the same hotel as Ingolfur Juliusson (Ingo), the Reuters freelancer based here in Iceland, and Gunnar Bondal, a photographer for Dagens Næringsliv – the Norwegian Business Daily. We decided to head out to get a good vantage point and take some nighttime photos and to take advantage of the rare clear night. During this time of year it does not get dark until after 9pm and even then the sun doesn’t stop illuminating things until 10pm or so. This meant that even though we were in place by roughly 9pm there was a lot of light to take slow shutter speed photos of the lava and ash clouds.

It seems that every day this volcano takes on a different personality. In the beginning, the ash was dark, almost black, and unbelievably forcefully shot skyward in massive and mushroom shaped plumes. After the first day or two, the ash turned to gray and white. And some evenings the only thing you could really see was the lava because the sky and ash were too dark. On this night, the moon was shining and it was possible to get some nice frames of the red glow of the lava and abstract shapes in the ash plume.

Lava and ash explode out of the caldera of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano April 22, 2010.  REUTERSLucas Jackson
Lava and ash explode out of the caldera of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano April 22, 2010. REUTERSLucas Jackson

I set up my clamp/car window rig again as Ingo and Gunnar spread out with their tripods to get some photos of the “orange stuff” as Ingo put it. Unfortunately, where we had the car (aka my tripod) parked was too windy and my lava trails looked like the slime trail of a drunk slug due to the wind rocking the vehicle.