German photographer Jan Erik Waider is known for his interesting approach to landscape photography. Preferring to draw out abstract shapes in nature, he often travels to Iceland to produce unique takes on the oft-photographed environment. So, it was only natural that he make a trip when the Fagradalsfjall volcano began erupting in March 2021. While there, he produced his LAVA series, which gives a close-up look at both magma and cooled lava.
Waider positioned himself in the Nátthagi valley and was able to get close to a fresh lava flow. Using a telephoto lens, he began to photograph the shapes and textures of the lava in its various forms. By working with this lens, he was able to take images that were visually close while still keeping himself and his equipment safe.
“What makes the use of telephoto zoom lenses so special for me in the field of landscape photography is the possibility to find details that are really unique,” Waider tells My Modern Met. He was surprised by the dynamic landscape, as he observed cool lava break open and ooze the molten rock that was hidden inside. This caused new shapes that provided a constant source of inspiration for Waider. “This kind of simultaneously beautiful but also brutal transience was the charm for me,” he recalled.
In the end, Waider spent three days in the field gathering a vast amount of imagery in order to get photos with consistent light and contrast. The results are fascinating. Each photograph is a visual delight that highlights the surprising diversity of the lava. Ridges and ripples of hardening lava form different textures, while the red-hot lava cuts like a knife through the visual field. By focusing so closely on this one aspect of the volcano, Waider shows that nature can produce some of the best fine art.