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Anything to Get the Shot: Volcanic Visuals

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Some photographers’ willingness to do anything to get the shot came to mind when I saw this 1908 photo. Clearly, the man holding this large camera (imagine running with that in hand!) was determined to capture what is likely a billowing cloud of volcanic ash. Taken long before the benefit of zoom lenses, both the man in the photo and the person who is capturing this scene had to get closer than was likely comfortable. We can only hope he’s further away than he appears to be at first glance!

[Man holding large camera photographing a cataclysmic event, possibly a volcano erupting]. Photo copyrighted by Underwood & Underwood, 1908.

While the collections include many other photographs of volcanoes erupting and the aftermath, it’s not nearly as common to get a window on what it takes to capture such an image.  This 1910 photograph shows a cinematographer filming Mount Etna erupting from a rather steep hillside, while a photographer stands behind him. perhaps waiting his turn.

Photographers on hillside photographing Mt. Etna eruption. Photo by Bain News Service, 1910.
W.A. Hesse taking moving pictures of Katmai Volcano. Photo copyrighted 1913 by M. Horner.

And finally, Mr. W.A. Hesse is at least filming the Katmai volcano from a relatively safe distance – though I can’t imagine it was easy to reach this location in the mountains of Alaska!

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Comments (2)

  1. The stereo photo is truly amazing. Because it is stereo one could in fact calculate the focal length of the lens and then the distance by the difference between the two lenses. While it’s true there were no zoom lenses at the time, telephoto or telescopic lenses were certainly available. In the case of the stereo picture a wide angle lens was more desirable to exploit the 3d effect as long lenses compress depth of field while wide ones expand it.

  2. It could be appropriate to look at Camillus Farrand’s work inside an active volcano (Guagua Pichincha, Ecuador) around 1862. His works where published by E. & H.T. Anthony & CO., (steroeviews) in a serie called: VIEWS IN ” El ECUADOR” (THE ANDES.)

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