I'm doing a trip to Sicily in a few weeks, including, if the weather allows, a hike up the Stromboli volcano, which is one of the most active in Europe (it's apparently erupting almost all the time). I've never seen a volcano before, so I don't exactly know what to expect in terms of luminous intensity or fumes for instance.

I'd like to go back home with good pictures, and since it's a particular subject, and a once-in-a-long-time opportunity, I don't want to mess up. I'll be using my Nikon D5100, and will probably have the option to use any of my 85mm, 50mm or 12-24mm.

  • Would a ND filter be useful ? I'm thinking the eruptions might be very bright.
  • Should I use my lens hoods ?
  • The D5100 is not weather sealed, would I be taking a risk by taking it up the volcano ?
  • Are there other good tips for this situation ?

Here's the kind of picture I'd be glad to add to my collection (rather long exposure, which reinforces the idea I might need an ND filter) :

eruption pic

  • 2
    Weather sealing isn't going to help protect the camera from the hot glowy stuff. May 7 '14 at 13:06
  • 4
    don't breathe any fumes otherwise you might catch pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis
    – DHall
    May 7 '14 at 14:19
  • 1
    Try to stay alive. This might be harder than it sounds...
    – PlasmaHH
    May 7 '14 at 15:55
  • I'll have to paraphrase Jack Handey here - If you drop your camera in a river of hot lava, let it go cause man, it's gone! Nov 20 '14 at 2:00
  • How did the pictures turn out? Jun 28 '15 at 16:25

To address your points in order:

  • Considering ND filters are reasonably cheap, it would seem like a good idea to take one or two along.
  • Always! This means you will be looking at screw-in ND filters as opposed to square filters and a holder.
  • Not particularly, unless there is a lot of ash around. You can buy camera covers fairly cheaply that are primarily designed for waterproofing but often do double duty to keep particles off the camera as well - may be a worthwhile investment.
  • If you are doing long exposures, don't forget a sturdy tripod. Also:
    • Be very aware of your surroundings - you don't want to step in lava while your eye is glued to the viewfinder.
    • Try and establish what lens will best suit the location beforehand. You don't want to be taking the lens off the camera in that environment. I would imagine your 12-24 would be best if you can get reasonably close, but the 50mm might be a safer bet.
  • 2
    +1 and a couple of extra tips: with ash/dust flying around why not aim to keep an ND or skylight on most of the time? Compared to a lens they're disposable. Blow the dust off the filter and front of the lens before removing the filter. The rain-proof camera covers are good - get the one for your largest lens and you can make it fit your other lenses with rubber bands. They kept my 40D dry in a rainforest that lived up to its name and would be good for dust etc. as well. It will be dusty even without the volcano in that sort of terrain.
    – Chris H
    May 7 '14 at 15:09
  • Of note, for point #2 and the hood vs square filter, there are square filter systems (such as the Lee) where it is possible to have both a square filter and a hood.
    – user13451
    May 8 '14 at 1:09

The overall luminosity isn't going to be that bright, but you may want to be able to do long exposure which may require an ND filter.

As for fumes, there generally isn't ash in the case of surface eruptions. It is mostly just noxious gas (ie, "clean" air, but air without enough oxygen in it and too many things that aren't good for carbon based life.) Luckily, your camera isn't a carbon based life form needing to breath, so it shouldn't particular care.

You will likely want a longer lens though. You are not going to be able to get close to the lava flows for safety reasons. I would recommend a minimum of a 200mm lens and if you can get a 400mm lens or longer, that's probably preferable. 85mm is most likely not going to cut it from a safe distance.

Lens hood doesn't matter for a light source in frame, but it does matter for light sources out of frame (ie, the sun) so use conventional wisdom about the lens hood. I'd generally use one because it isn't going to hurt anything.

The only other advice is make sure to follow the posted notices and be aware of your surroundings. Volcanoes are fun to visit, but they are also dangerous, especially active ones. The actual volcano generally extends far beyond where you see the lava and the rock above it can be very thin. Additionally, noxious fumes that displace oxygen are all over and you won't feel uncomfortable if you go in to an area with insufficient oxygen, you'll feel fine right up until you pass-out and suffocate.

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