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Starts With A Bang

An Unforgettable Time-Lapse Volcano

This past week, the Colima volcano in Mexico erupted spectacularly.
César Cantú captured it like never before.

“It’s tempting to go to the throat of the volcano to get the data, because if you do you’re a hero … It’s a battle between your mind and your emotions. If your emotions win out, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble.” –Ken Wohletz

Just a short while ago — on Monday — I shared with you the story of volcanic lightning in (mostly) pictures, with a longer explanation over here. Little did I know that earlier that night, Colima volcano in Mexico had begun erupting. And when it did, world-class astrophotographer César Cantú just happened to be there to capture it.

All images and videos credit: César Cantú.

As the smoke, ash, cloud and soot filled the skies thanks to the volcanic eruption, night began to fall. And when it did, the eruption intensified even more, with fountains of lava flowing out of the mountain’s peak.

All images and videos credit: César Cantú.

The earliest stages of a volcanic eruption tend to be the hottest, most chaotic, and to also spew out the greatest amounts of ash and soot.

All images and videos credit: César Cantú.

It’s these very conditions, where you have the combined factors of:

  • high temperatures at the base with much cooler temperatures above it,
  • ionized particles with turbulent airflow,
  • a sooty, ashy, cloudy area where the air is highly conductive, and
  • these three conditions sustained over a sufficient time with dark enough skies for photography,

that you’ve got the greatest chance to capture a volcanic lightning strike.

All images and videos credit: César Cantú.

With his long-exposure photography techniques, with his equipment, his experience, and his skill in framing and compositing shots, Cesar was able to do exactly this.

All images and videos credit: César Cantú.

The image above is actually just a single-frame from the long-exposure image displayed prior to that, which you can see from the identical shape of the lightning strike. (Like snowflakes, no two are identical.)

But the best shot he captured? That was an up-close masterpiece of the most spectacular strike the Colima eruption put on display.

All images and videos credit: César Cantú.

Completely spectacular, so much so that his video composition is worth another look. As far as I know, it’s the first time-lapse video of a volcanic eruption that showcases the incredible phenomenon of volcanic lightning!

We’ll be back with our regularly scheduled weekend post tomorrow, but in the meantime, I couldn’t resist sharing this with you. Hope you enjoyed it just as much as I did!

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