How Chris Burkard filmed Iceland’s latest volcanic eruption for NatGeo

After centuries of inactivity, Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula has erupted twice in less than a year, causing fountains of glowing rock. The latest eruption, which began at 1:18 p.m. local time on August 3, opened up in a fissure just a few hundred meters from the cone created by last year’s volcanic eruption.

On the ground in what has become a very active volcanic area, photographer Chris Burkard explains what it was like to photograph for National geographic as Iceland experienced its second volcanic eruption in as many years.

On August 3, a second massive lava explosion emerged in Iceland near the area that saw huge activity last year. This time, however, the eruption is noticeably more powerful. In a detailed history of the eruption, National geographic says this strongly suggests that the country’s Reykjanes Peninsula will become one of the most volcanically dynamic parts of the planet for generations to come.

This story includes several incredible photos taken by travel and adventure photographer Chris Burkard. speaking to PetaPixelBurkard explains what it was like to be on the ground in the midst of the impressive geological event.

“Photographing this eruption is unlike anything I have ever filmed, primarily due to its rarity and transience. Photographing an active volcano is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and knowing it could end at any moment. really changes the way things feel,” he says.

Chris Burkard National Geographic

“It made me feel like I was documenting a historical event, compared to a lot of my other shoots that revolve around surfing or outdoor activities or commercial projects. I think it makes the footage much more meaningful to Of course there are challenges, many unknowns like when it will end and where you can be, and how close you can get to the heat, but every shoot brings its own set of challenges. what makes it stand out is its historical aspect.

When the eruption started, Burkard was in the right place at the right time.

@natgeo The floor is lava! 🌋 #NatGeoTikTok #Iceland ♬ original sound – National Geographic

“Somehow I’ve just been in Iceland for the eruptions that happened this year and last year. I travel to Iceland as much as I can and spend a lot of time in the country. I usually come here for photo projects and leave time between them or after to just enjoy being here,” he says.

“It worked perfectly and I was here with all my camera gear and an open schedule when the Meradalir eruption started. It’s like a gift for the timing to operate this way and I haven’t wasted any time. time to try and capture it as quickly as possible My vision for capturing footage is mostly to try and document the event as it unfolds because it’s ever-changing and unpredictable, which makes it all the more fun.

All of Burkard’s photos of the event were taken on a Sony Alpha 1 with a 16-35mm or 24-70mm lens. His aerial photos were taken with a DJI Mavic 3.

“I actually didn’t have my usual full gear with me when the eruption started, but I had enough to keep it running and wasted no time worrying about what I was doing. had and didn’t. Filming on the ground with my camera is a great way to capture the details of the volcano and lava up close, as well as documenting the more intimate experience of humans interacting with nature. and the eruption,” he says.

“Shooting with the drone is a great way to show the big picture – to show what the phenomenon looks like from afar and how important it really is. It also opens up a whole new perspective, being able to shoot from the sky and a variety of angles that you can’t photograph on the ground with a camera, like looking directly at the volcano from above. Shooting with a drone was really essential to show the whole scene and document the area. I think that pairing the two is the ultimate combination because you can paint a complete picture of the natural event as well as the humans experiencing it.

As is the case with most filming, photographing the eruption came with its own set of challenges. Burkard says that in this case, figuring out what was safe and what wasn’t was the biggest challenge, especially when it came to knowing where he could stand.

Chris Burkard National Geographic

“There are places that are safe to stand and shoot and places that aren’t, there are times when it’s safe to approach and when it’s not, the quality of the air changes and can be dangerous, so just navigating safety protocols is key,” he explains.

“I would say it was easier to capture this in a way that matched my vision than other work I’ve done. I say that because for many shoots that I do, there’s all kinds of planning and production and it takes a long time to get things the way I want them. With the eruption, just shoot. There’s not much time to worry about this or that and there’s definitely no production planning, it’s just embracing my creativity and nature’s awesome display. It’s hard but it’s also a lot of fun to get into a state of flow and document everything that’s going on without wasting time worrying about this or that.

Burkard says the chance to shoot for National geographic is an opportunity he, and probably most outdoor and adventure photographers, dream of.

Chris Burkard National Geographic

“It is one of the most prestigious magazines in the world and to shoot for National geographic is an honor. Knowing that my work meets their high standards and will be widely distributed around the world makes me very grateful. My ultimate goal in my career is to help people enjoy our planet and the outdoors and I think National geographic does it on a large scale,” he says.

For more on this story, including additional photos of Burkard, be sure to visit National Geographic website.


Picture credits: Photos by Chris Burkard, National Geographic

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