Earth, solar wind and fire: Northern lights and molten lava come together in landscape that could be out of this world
With their vivid colours and alien landscapes, these pictures look like they could be of another world.
They capture two of nature’s most spectacular sights – the northern lights and an erupting volcano in Iceland – in a single shot.
Photographer James Appleton from Cambridge braved the mighty flames of the Fimmvorduhals volcano and the frozen bite of the harsh Icelandic winter – and was rewarded with these incredibly rare shots.
Otherworldly: A volcanic erupts on the Fimmvorduhals mountain pass in Iceland as Aurora Borealis lights up the sky in lurid greens and yellows behind
He has spent the past seven years capturing the volatile and stunning landscapes of Iceland, and when he was told the Fimmvvrpuhals volcano was erupting, he immediately knew he had to see it.
Working alongside vulcanologists, Mr Appleton, 25, got within a few hundred feet of the erupting volcano to get the perfect shot.
‘On the plane flying over to Iceland I had in my mind’s eye the perfect image I wanted to see, which was exactly this combination of an erupting volcano and the Aurora Borealis,’ he said.
‘I never dared to hope it might actually happen, but seeing it for real put all the hairs on the back of my neck up.
‘When I saw the photographs come through the camera I was jumping around with excitement.’
Two of nature”s spectacles converge: Gas shoots into the air and molten lava starts to pour across the landscape as the northern lights flash across the sky
Dawn rises: Molten lava flows away from the eruption site as the sun begins to rise over the mountain pass
Mr Appleton could not resist the temptation to get in as close as possible to the volcano to get the best shots. He tried to stay on ridges and high ground to avoid the danger of gas pockets that may have formed, or caves under the snow formed by the heat of the lava.
‘The dangerous moments came when a two day storm blew in and I was forced to take shelter from incredibly powerful winds and blizzards,’ he said.
‘The few times I tried venturing outside I would be blown flat over and along some of the sheer ice, which was pretty disconcerting.
Fast moving weather systems: The sun cuts under a close storm system at sunset over the bay near Husavik, northern Iceland. Ever-changing weather systems mean Iceland often has dramatic sunsets
Calm after the storm: Ice fields around the volcano and surrounding snow-capped mountains in Southern Iceland
‘That and the occasional earthquake meant for not much sleep. Because of the whiteout conditions I could barely see ten feet in front of my eyes through the driving snow.’
The raw, wild landscapes and rapidly changing weather systems create incredible conditions for photography, says Mr Appleton, who hopes to return there one day.
‘I look for powerful skies and the moments when the world is full of colour and movement,’ he says.
‘Iceland is fantastic as producing moments such as these.’