Photographer Captures Northern Lights Over an Erupting Volcano

A vibrant display of the northern lights in hues of green and purple over a fiery volcanic eruption, casting an orange glow against a dark night sky.

A photographer waited three years to capture these epic shots of the northern lights above an erupting volcano.

Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove, a Belgian photographer who lives in Iceland, took these incredible images of the northern lights above the active Fagradalsfall volcano in Iceland on April 15.

Van Nieuwenhove says he has been fascinated by the idea of capturing these two natural phenomena in one shot — after he first briefly managed to capture the northern lights and the volcanic eruption together in 2021.

A stunning display of the northern lights in a dark sky above a vibrant, expansive ground fire emitting glowing flames and smoke.

A dramatic scene where the northern lights illuminate the sky with green and purple hues above an erupting volcano spewing red lava and billowing smoke.

A vivid scene displaying the northern lights in the sky above a fiery volcanic eruption at night, illuminating the dark landscape with radiant colors.

“In 2021, during the first eruption I photographed at the Fagradalsfall volcano in Iceland, I had this idea of trying to capture the northern lights above an active eruption,” Van Nieuwenhove tells PetaPixel.

“To me, it’s a mythical kind of photograph and I wondered if it would even be possible to capture this in one frame. It seems almost surreal and impossible to capture two of the most elusive natural phenomena in Iceland in one photograph.

“I made several attempts during that eruption to capture that shot. One night, I managed to take one shot of a moment that lasted maybe one minute.

“Ever since, I have dreamed of experiencing that unique moment again. With every eruption that occurred since then (we have had seven now), I thought about that possibility and whether I would see it again.”

‘Far From a Simple Shot’

Since then, Van Nieuwenhove, who has become well-known for his breathtaking photos of active volcanos, has attempted to capture this unique moment again on several occassions.

However, the conditions were never right or the northern lights were not strong enough for a photograph.

A camera on a tripod capturing the aurora borealis and a volcanic eruption at night, with a fiery lava flow and a green-lit sky visible on its display screen.

The photographer says that it was extremely challenging to shoot the two natural phenomena together in a single frame due to the different light intensities and the fast movement of different elements such as the lava, gas, and the aurora.

“Even though this shot may seem simple, it is far from it,” Van Nieuwenhove says.

“There are a lot of hurdles to overcome. Before you can even begin to shoot, you need the right moment where the northern lights are very strong and you need an approachable volcanic eruption.

“The most obvious technical hurdle is the fact that the light intensity of the aurora and the lava is vastly different. To the eye, lava is much, much brighter than the northern lights are — even if the aurora is really intense.”

‘Photography is About Memories’

However, on April 15, Van Nieuwenhove managed to capture the northern lights above the active Fagradalsfall volcano in a series of stunning shots. The images were mainly taken on a Canon EOS R5 with an RF 14-35mm f/4.

Van Nieuwenhove suggests that some photographers may have chosen to create a composite image of the erupting volcano alongside the northern lights given the challenging circumstances — but that would never have felt right to him.

“For me, photography is about memories, being outdoors, and experiencing things,” Van Nieuwenhove says.

“It’s not spending hours behind my computer creating an image I hoped I would capture.”

For more from Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove, see his website, Instagram, and Facebook.

Image credits: All photos by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove.