On the evening of March 19th, 2021, an eruption started in a small valley Geldingadalir at Reykjanes Peninsula after a long period of earthquakes and seismic activity. The outbreak started with a 500-meter fissure that opened in the valley, a typical beginning of a basalt eruption in Iceland. As the next day prolonged, craters began to form to deliver the magma and convert it to lava. Within hours people rushed to the location that is about a five to six hours difficult hike. Of course, I took my camera gear to the new mini volcano and photographed the eruption, the new lava, the fire river and enjoyed every minute of it. In the first three days of the eruption, thousands of people had visited the small volcano. Visiting an eruption site and viewing the magma splash from the crater, viewing the glowing lava stream in a river of fire is incomparable to anything you can ever imagine. It is a tremendous experience. 
Since I will be hiking regularly to the Geldingadalir to photograph the eruption, I will also add new photos as the outbreak continues. So make sure you come back in a few days and see and hear of the exciting story of the eruption at Geldingadalir in Reykjanes Peninsula and possibly prepare your photographic tour
This will be my personal photographic journal of the eruption at Geldingadalir. For photography I only use my two cameras, the Nikon D850 and the Nikon D750. Lenses: AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR IIAF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR - AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8G ED and Sigma Art 14-24mm f/2.8.
Getting dangerously close to the crater

Getting dangerously close to the crater on the second day of the eruption 

Although we regularly have eruptions in Iceland, this eruption at Geldingadalir is a unique outbreak for more than one reason and one particularly interesting. Most eruptions feed on magma that originates in magma chambers within the crust of our planet. In Reykjanes Peninsula, the crust is about 10 to 12 miles deep. The magma streaming to the surface at Geldingadalir comes from a much deeper source. From below the crust, and has found its way through a narrow channel all the way to the surface. This means that the source is likely infinite and indicates that the eruption can last for months, years, and possibly decades. Therefore, the eruption will most likely give photographers an unprecedented opportunity to experience and photograph this unique event for months and perhaps years to come. 
The new crater at Geldingadalur

A stunning place to photograph 

Even though I have visited several eruptions in my lifetime, like the small eruption at Fimmvörðuháls and the big outburst at Eyjafjallajökull, the Geldingadalir eruption at Mt. Fagradalsfjall is the most interesting one that I have experienced. It is almost the perfect tourist eruption with its steady flow of 5 to 10 m3/s and slowly laying a carpet of lava in the valley. A small valley that  is surrounded by low hills or mountains that form a colosseum around the activity. From many places upon the slopes, you can choose different angles for spectacular photography.  I can hardly emphasize often enough how important it is to take a telephoto lens to this location for landscape photography. Pointing the lens to the splashing magma at the crater is just amusing and a lot of fun when you get home to process.  
The new crater or caldera at Geldingadalir Reykjanes Peninsula

The new crater or caldera and the new lava field at Geldingadalir Reykjanes Peninsula

A panorama photo on the second day of the eruption at Geldingadalir shows how the lava starts to spread out at the bottom of the valley. This photo is taken 36 hours after it started. It was an impressive time to visit, as it was even expected that the eruption would only last for a few days. A few days later, geologists and scientists dived into their new data, analyzed gases and the new lava samples.  After this initial research, they concluded that this eruption, although small in nature, might last for weeks, months, years, or even decades. 
A close up of the lava stream

A close up of the lava stream - A good opportunity to use a telephoto lens for photography 

As the flow of glowing lava continued on the third day, walls began to build up around the cater at Geldingadalir. At first, the walls were weak and often collapsed, causing a massive flow of red glowing lava to burst from the crater. The difference between new gray moving lava solidifying in front of your eyes and the black lava was fascinating. Again a unique texture offering extensive photo opportunities as the flowing magma transformed into a lava field. It was very inviting for the camera, to say the least. 
The new lava and the river of glowing magma

The new lava and the river of glowing magma

As the lava accumulates in the valley, it becomes a lava floor in this old valley used for grazing in the Reykjanes Peninsula Highland. Slowly a new layer covers on top of another floating as a glowing river solidifying in many incredible forms. Piling up rocks, sometimes forming long stripes or even fine lava ropes side by side. Sitting by the lava and watching the many forms it delivers can be mesmerizing. For photography, this part of the volcanic activity, finding spectacular patterns in the lava and take photos, could be an excellent reason to visit. 
A relaxed day by the volcano at Geldingadalir by Mt. Fagradalsfjall

A relaxed day by the volcano at Geldingadalir by Mt. Fagradalsfjall

On the 12th day, I revisited Geldingadalir. The weather forecast was great as the wind was blowing to the south, clearing the smoke and the toxic gases away from the craters. Around lunchtime, the sun was shining behind the crater and placed on the sky right above the main activity. It was a perfect day to capture and sun star above the new volcano. There was no lack of people in the foreground as there were hundreds of visitors and scientists gathering samples and measuring the gases. The initial crater had formed two vents to deliver, and both were relatively active and interesting. Enough to point the camera repeatedly to the heart of the eruption.  
The two craters provide a steady flow of magma on the 12th day of the eruption

The two craters provide a steady flow of magma on the 12th day of the eruption

Pointing your camera to a splashing magma of 2200°F as it starts to flow and solidify at the same time is just amazing. I put the camera on continuing exposure mode and the speed to 800 and then I shoot. I use the extraordinary sharp Nikon 70-200mm 1:2.8GII lens and enjoy every shot when I get back home to process them in Lightroom.  
The girl by the volcano

The girl by the volcano

On this day, I took my 8-year-old granddaughter with me to experience the volcanic activity. I took three photos of the valley and made an interesting panorama with Lightroom when I came back home. For the shots, I used my favorite lens, the Nikkor 16-35mm that seems to deliver sharp and solid photos every time I point it to something. It is also a great lens to produce a sun star as you can use f/22 when holding the camera, even at ISO 64. The outcome was interesting as it almost seemed that she was alone by the volcano. 
Photographing the glowing splash up close with a 70mm to 200mm lens

Photographing the glowing splash up close with a 70mm to 200mm lens

Playing with the camera and focusing only on the northern crater's splash of the two original vents. The splash erupts at 10 to 15-sec intervals, and by using a speed of 800, you can capture one unique photo after another by focusing only on the splash. It is also interesting to use a high-quality shot from the Nikon D850 and the Nikon 70-200mm 1:2.8GII lens with the great options that we have in Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance the splash and the texture of the dark crater to get a more realistic outcome. This is an excellent place to practice all the sophisticated tools that high-quality digital photography can offer. 
The three craters that now dominate the area on April 10th

The three craters that now dominate the area from April 9th 

Over the Easter weekend, dramatic changes occurred at Geldingadalir. Two new fissures opened to the north, adding one vent for the magma on Easter Sunday and another smaller one on Monday. The original craters and Geldingadalir valley are in the foreground, and the new and bigger one way in the back in the photo above. The one that was born on the Eastern Sunday. In every sense of the word, this was a spectacular development. The underlying magma and a possible danger zone are in the direction from the south to the north. In the photo above, you are looking from south to north. It is expected that the activity can open more fissures south of the craters and also north of the craters. The mountains around the area, slopes, and tops are considered safe.  The photo was taken on the morning of April 9th.
The second crater that opened on a new fissure during the Easter holidays

The second crater that opened on a new fissure during the Easter holidays

The new northernmost crater is a very active one. It is estimated that the lava flow has increased from a reasonably steady 5m3/s to 8 m3/s or roughly 50% with the additional fissures. This has raised the possibility that this will be a long eruption but multiplied the photo opportunities. The lava field is much bigger and increases in size as the four craters splash their glowing magma from the gourd.  
At least 8 vents had opened on April the14th
At least 8 vents had opened on April the14th
As the eruption proceeds, new vents started to open on the ridge that made up the long fissure. At this point, there were at least eight craters splashing magma to the surface. It was estimated that the flow had increased up to 15 m/sec. Photographing was difficult as the weather worsened for days and an increased amount of gases lay over the craters. 
Overview of the lava field at Geldingadalir on April 21st

Overview of the lava field at Geldingadalir on April 21st 

The eruption has lasted for more than a month and has spread to every corner of the valley. At one point, eight vents had opened and splashed magma in all directions. The beautiful sight of glowing rivers and solidifying lava is always mesmerizing. Here I took advantage of the panorama technology in Lightroom. The photos are taken with my D750 Nikon and the Nikkor 24-70mm.  The wind was blowing the smoke away from the main subjects, the lava, and the craters. 
Similar activity has been in the vents from the beginning of the eruption

Similar activity (flow of magma) has been in the vents from the beginning of the eruption 

The two vents, forming beautiful craters and delivering glowing magma, are a fascinating sight. The variety of colors with the red magma river is just magical. It is not difficult to find inspiring spots when you have two to three lenses and many different angles to point at when you walk by the solidifying lava. 
A visitor at the eruption sight views all the craters

A visitor at the eruption sight views all the craters

On April 25th, I decided to hike to the eruption at Geldingadalir with my Nikon D850 only and my 70 - 200mm f/2.8 lens. I knew it would give me less angle, but I simply love the sharpness of this lens. As the wind was blowing from the south, it blew away the gases, and the sky was clear. I walked to the highest peak on the trail, and there I got a great view of all the vents that have opened during the eruption. Surprisingly there are so many colors going on by the craters and in the solidifying lava.  The closest one with the blue smoke is the first one looking almost orange with ash. The farthest one in the back has stopped pouring magma and has a kind of green color.  The active and delivering magma has formed a fire river pushing its way to Meradalir valley or possibly to Nátthagi. The lens proved to be the perfect tool to capture this magnificent view. 


On May 1st, all except one vent stopped delivering magma.

I waited for weeks before hiking to the eruption site in the evening. A bit risky as sunset is moving later and later into the night in May. Looking at the weather, the direction of the wind, and the conditions by the craters, it somehow never felt right.  On May 1st, a dramatic change occurred that changed night photography substantially. All the craters shot down except one. It also appeared that increased activity and power came to this vent. It started to blow and splash the magma much higher with more force. The sight became spectacular, especially during the evening and the night. Armed with my Nikon D850 and 70 - 200mm f/2.8 Nikkor, I hiked to the eruption site once more. It was almost a windless night with a slight breeze from the east and a clear sky. A tripod was also required. 

Sunset by the volcano on May 2nd

One of my objectives when hiking to the eruption site on May 2nd was to capture the sunset. I knew precisely when the sunset would occur and how the sun would shine on the crater and the lava. I had to climb up the difficult hills of Mt Stóra Hrútfell to be high enough when the sun was sitting on the edge of Mt. Fagradalsfjall on the other side of Geldingadalir. The only consideration was how high the splash would be. The timeframe up there on the hill was narrow. But then came this huge blast as high as I could hope for.  My new Sigma Art 14 - 24mm f/2.8 with nine blades delivered a perfect sunstar at f/22. What a night. 
One crater is now active

One crater is now active on May 11th 

The weather is always in control. This evening was my 8th hike to the volcanic activity in Geldingadalir. The wind was coming from the north, and I decided to hike the east side and view the opening of the crater. It was just an evening walk, so my bag was light. I only took the Nikon D850 and the 14 - 24 Sigma lens. The crater had just started to splash like a pulse. Stopping for a few minutes and then a big splatter.  
On the morning of May 15th, the weather forecast was just irresistible. It was the day for my Nikkor 24 - 70 mm and a day of colors. I knew the sky would be showing its blue color behind a few clouds. I also knew about the green color of one of the recent craters, a vent that had died. In addition, I knew that the flow of the fire river was getting more significant from the ever-increasing size of the crater. 
On the evening of Jun 8th, I hiked up to the mountain Hrútfell right east of the volcano. The view was stunning, and the changes from the middle of May were dramatic. The flow from the crater was extensive and just poured with force from the vent every 10 minutes or so. I couldn't decide whether it was more impressive than the enormous eruption of 300 meters in the middle of May. It was very forceful. I used the 70 to 200 Nikon lens on my D850 to capture this magnificent change. Another significant change was the amount of lava and how the new lava is eating up the valleys. It is an incredible development.
Einar Páll Svavarsson visiting the volcano site at the beginning of the eruption

Einar Páll Svavarsson visiting the volcano site at the beginning of the eruption - Photo: Guðfinnur Sveinsson

If you have any questions or interest for a photographic tour in Iceland don't hesitate to contact me through this from. 
Submit
Thank you!

You may also like

Back to Top