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Volcanology

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Original author: 
Nathan Ingraham

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James Turrell is known in the art world for creating pieces that can be both spectacularly innovative and highly disorienting. Take his Perceptual Cells — a large sphere where a person can lay down and be bombarded by lights so bright you can see the biological structure of your own eye. The New York Times has just published an in-depth look at Turrell's career as the artist prepares for three huge exhibitions planned to launch simultaneously in New York, Los Angeles, and Houston. The extensive profile digs deep into Turrell's polarizing art, and the author is even invited to visit Roden Crater — an extinct volcano on his on massive ranch in Arizona. Turrell has spent decades excavating it in an effort to turn it into a massive art...

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Before the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, which grounded air traffic in Europe for weeks, few people were probably aware that Iceland averages an eruption once every four years. But while the spewing of hot lava is a frequent event, that doesn’t mean it’s a common one. “When we have eruptions, it’s all over the news,” photographer Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson tells TIME. “Most Icelanders try and go and see the eruptions. We are very excited about it.”

The cover of Magma: Icelandic Volcanoes (2012)
© Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson—Arctic Images

Sigurdsson has spent much of his career photographing Iceland’s volcanic eruptions. As he explained to TIME in 2011, within minutes of an eruption, he’s in a plane to photograph the event from above. “If there would be an eruption right now, I would immediately jump into an airplane to get pictures,” he says. “Then I would go take my trusted Jeep and drive up there with my tripod and stay there. I like much better taking pictures on the ground than in the air. They are more powerful and more exciting.”

After years of recording Iceland’s volcanoes up close, Sigurdsson undertook his latest project, to collect and preserve as many photographs of Icelandic volcanoes as he could find. Along with geophysicist Ari Trausti Gudmundsson, his friend for 25 years, Sigurdsson pored over archives, scanning and preserving hundreds of photos of eruptions on the small Nordic island. They are collected in the recently published book Magma: Icelandic Volcanoes.

Many of the photos in the collection are exactly what you think a volcano should look like: searing reds and oranges spewing from the ground; black soot careening into the sky. But the book also includes old black and white photos that are equally powerful, classic depictions of geologic explosions that can pack as much power as an atomic bomb. “I’m quite fond of black and white myself,” Sigurdsson says. “Black and white volcano pictures are, maybe not all the time as powerful as the orange ones. If you have a lot of orange and blue colors, it’s a great contrast, the scenes and strong colors.”

Now that he has preserved the history of Iceland’s volcanoes, Sigurdsson is readying for the next eruption. When photographing a volcano, “you have to make decisions on the fly when you have the scene in front of you,” he says. Do you need slow shutter speed, long exposures, or do you need to freeze the action or all of the above? “You have to try everything and use all your knowledge—the key to success is you’re never done,” he says. “I was done when all of my batteries were dead. And I can’t wait for the next eruption.” Given the frequency of the country’s volcanoes, he might not have to wait long to try it out.

Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson has worked as a photographer since age 16. His work is available through Arctic Images. MAGMA: Icelandic Volcanoes is available directly from the publisher.

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Out of an estimated 1,500 active volcanoes around the world, 50 or so erupt every year, spewing steam, ash, toxic gases, and lava. In 2011, active volcanoes included Chile's Puyehue, Japan's Shinmoedake, Indonesia's Lokon, Iceland's Grímsvötn, Italy's Etna, and recently Nyamulagira in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Hawaii, Kilauea continues to send lava flowing toward the sea, and the ocean floor has been erupting near the Canary Islands. Collected below are scenes from the wide variety of volcanic activity on Earth over the past year. [36 photos]

A cloud of ash billowing from Puyehue volcano near Osorno in southern Chile, 870 km south of Santiago, on June 5, 2011. Puyehue volcano erupted for the first time in half a century on June 4, 2011, prompting evacuations as it sent up a cloud of ash that circled the globe. (Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images)

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Jim Seida writes

Ships and aircraft have been ordered to stay away from the bubbling waters around La Restinga, and the Port's 600 residents have been evacuated.  Read more here...

Spanish government handout / AFP - Getty Images

This image released Nov. 3, shows green and brown stains at sea off the coast of the Spanish Canary Island of El Hierro. A series of quakes including one measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale shook Hierro island in Spain's Canaries, three weeks after a nearby undersea volcanic eruption. The 4.0-magnitude quake struck at 0755 GMT in the Atlantic about five kilometres (three miles) northwest of the town of Frontera, population 4,000, said a report by the National Geographical Institute.

Spanish Institute of Oceanograph / EPA

This computer-genereated image shows the underwater volcano in the southern area of El Hierro Island, in the Canary Islands, Spain, on Oct. 31.

Canary Regional Goverment handout / EPA

This image made available on Nov. 4 shows volcanic activity on Nov. 3 from underwater volcano at El Hierro island coast, Canary Islands, Spain. The volcano has being erupting and causing the ground to shake several times a day since July 2011.

 Follow the volcano's activity blow-by-blow on Earthquake Report

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Erupting volcanoes, drug wars, famine in Niger, aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, children suffering from Agent Orange disabilities, abortions performed by untrained practitioners in Kenya but also lucha libre for women, traveling cinema in India and couchsurfing in Brooklyn continue

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Puyehue volcano in southern Chile has spread volcanic ash far and wide since it erupted in early June. On Monday, Argentina's president announced that economic relief would be provided to residents affected by the ash in the southwestern region of Patagonia. And as recent as July 1 ash in the atmosphere was disrupting flights at the Buenos Aires airport. These images show how the earth's landscape has been affected. Here's a link to view our original post on June 8. -- Lloyd Young
(32 photos total)
A horse walks on a field covered by volcanic ash from Chilean volcano Puyehue, near Villa Llanquin, a hamlet along route 40 on the banks of Limay river, 50 km from Bariloche, in the Argentine province of Rio Negro, on June 17, 2011. The ash cloud from Chile's Puyehue volcano caused widespread travel chaos in the southern hemisphere since it erupted for the first time on June 4 after lying dormant half a century. (rancisco Ramos Mejia/AFP/Getty Images)

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Yellowstone, the first national park in the world, was established by the U.S. Congress in 1872 and has welcomed millions of visitors in the 139 years since. Last year, Yellowstone recorded its highest number of visitors ever, as some 3.6 million people passed through its gates. Its well-known geothermal features -- geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles -- owe their existence to the massive Yellowstone Caldera, a 45-mile-wide volcanic system beneath the park. Tourists are also drawn to Yellowstone's hundreds of species of wildlife, massive waterfalls, and incredible vistas. Collected below are a few recent views of Yellowstone National Park. [41 photos]

A rainbow appears at the base of the Yellowstone River Lower Falls in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

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