Mauna Loa Eruption Update #4…Could be a pause. Could be going out.

Writing this at 5pm Hawaii time on Friday December 9, 2022. It appears to me that the eruption is greatly diminished. It may be going on a pause or it may be going out. Could breakout in a new area, no way of knowing at the moment. There is still some lava at Fissure #3, but the volume is way down. I am going out at 3am tomorrow to get a better look at the situation.

Meantime, C.J. did a great job on CNN. Take a look at the link and you will get a good idea as to how we get the shots…it is not all pretty.

We will be putting up a Mauna Loa Eruption gallery on this site today or tomorrow. We are also trying to get some prints rushed into the gallery. Kind of a crazy time for us and the gallery…but we are loving it. Aloha to all.

Don Hurzeler for C.J. Kale, Linda Hurzeler and the Lava Light Galleries, Inc.

Mauna Loa Eruption Photography Advice

Here are the basics to get you going…

You can get good photos with an iPhone…I am seeing them all over Facebook.

But if you want to increase your chances of getting a great photo of the eruption, here is what you will need…

A tripod.

Camera body.

Three lenses…wide (like 14mm or a 16-35), medium (like 24-70 or 70-200 and a long lens (like a 400mm). The brighter the better on all of the lenses..f/2.8 would be terrific.

Bring an extra battery and extra card..although this type of photography does not result in too many shots in any one night…500 would be a big night.

A flash light to help you in the dark or to light up a foreground element.

Winter clothing.

As to settings…I shoot the entire range to get different effects. I shoot 30 second exposures to 1/2500th exposures. Remember a couple of things…lava produces heat shimmer, so the faster the shot, the more likely that the lava will be nearly in focus. Second, lava is moving…another reason to shoot fast rather than slow. And, you will likely be a long way from the flow, so details will be hard to capture…capture the scene. My long exposure shots are all quite wide…capturing the scene with a long exposure and low ISO.

ISO 100 is your friend. Try to keep your ISO low for most shots…go no higher than 1600 for any shot.

The best tip you will get is this…the red/yellow/white part of the eruption…the lava…will burn out white if you let it. We feel that a white lava shot is a deleter. So, you may have to use your hand or a card or something to cover the hottest spot of the image for much of the exposure…to try to balance the shot. I have been doing this technique for more than a decade and I still ruin two out of every three shots doing it..but the third one is a winner. Ruined shots will show kind of a shadow of your thumb or whatever you are using, because you held it there too long. This technique is “learn by doing”…and do not expect to nail it first time…shoot lots of shots and you will get better and better at it…until you only ruin two out of every three.

Photographing lava is tricky business, but IF YOU CAREFULLY CHECK EACH SHOT IN THE BACK OF YOUR CAMERA OR FINDER and then make adjustments to improve the next shot…you will quickly figure it out. If you do not review your shots, you may come home tired…and then disappointed. Learn how to review your shots by magnifying them in the Finder or back screen, so you can check for the dreaded White Lava and you focus. Again…remember that it is highly unlikely that any of us will get clean, crisp focus on live lava…it will probably be a bit blurry due to the heat shimmer around it.

As to where to do your photography…I have gotten good results in the Mauna Kea bathroom parking lot, along Saddle Road while trying to keep from getting a $1000 ticket, up Mauna Kea and everywhere in between…including downtown Kona for the glow. Explore and you will find your spot…there is no one secret spot for this massive eruption. And a helicopter would be nice, with doors off and at sunrise or sunset…however, they are a little difficult to reserve at the moment.

Hope that helps. If you have specific questions, send me an email at [email protected] and I will get you an answer.


Don Hurzeler for C.J.Kale, Linda Hurzeler and Lava Light Galleries, Inc.

Mauna Loa Vog Blog

Welcome, this is an informational blog for those of you on island or off, who are still considering whether you should try to go see the Mauna Loa eruption. You should, absolutely.

Is there vog on the island? ..there is. We saw a big cloud of it well behind Kona as we returned from our photo session this morning at about 6:30AM. I looked sizable and dirty (actually looked quite lovely with the morning sun hitting it) and we know it was filled with smoke/dust and irritants. Thankfully, it was being carried away from Kona and out to sea…with our apologies to those on the neighboring islands.

Questions I have been getting a lot…

Is it safe to see the lava? Are the crowds too much to bear? Does vog cause health problems?

Vog. Surely it does…for some people. While I suspect it is not good for all people, but for some reason it has never caused me a problem…and I have asthma. I’ve lived on this island for 15 years and have never been sick with a cold, flu or respiratory illness…not once. That said, I know others who moved off island due to vog induced problems. So…it is an individual kind of a thing. If you have in your head that all the people here are half dead from coughing up lava particles…you have it wrong. It is pretty much life as usual for everyone who is not sensitive to vog. Read more here on the USGS site.

Safety. It is really safe to see the lava… you are quite some ways from it and it does not shoot out like lightning and zap people, like in the movies. Nevertheless, it is safe viewing.

Is it crowded? Firstly, it has been massively crowded…and there was a steady stream of cars going to the viewing area when we drove out there at 3am this morning. Keep in mind it is Saturday morning here and many people have the day off. If you avoid sunrise and sunset…and now that the county has opened an excellent viewing option…it is no big deal. Yes, you will deal with some traffic, but it is not all that bad, except during peak hours.

Today’s Photos

One of the photos above has three white lines near the bottom. Actually, those are lines of cars…taken with a 30 second exposure. You’ll see the line on the left is the Saddle Road traffic coming up from Hilo at 3am. Next, the one closest to the bottom on the right is the traffic coming up from Kona on the Saddle Road.  Additionally, the heavier line of traffic above that bottom right line are the cars entering the new viewing area. Very well done by our country people… making it viewable for all of us.

Photographers like certain conditions and light. For us, the best time to shoot is 3am to 6am, and 3pm to 6pm. For the most part, the rest of the time we are elsewhere.

Lastly, Linda and I photographed the eruption from 3:30AM to 6:00Am this morning at about 9000 feet up Mauna Kea. It was “only” 45 degrees, but we froze to death, especially our gloveless hands and tennis shoed feet. To be certain, plan to dress warm, we will do so in the future.

Next blog.. What camera gear to bring + how to best photograph the eruptions. Preview…you can get some very nice photos on an iPhone, I promise. Certainly will be a must read.


Don Hurzeler, for C.J. Kale, Linda Hurzeler and Lava Light Galleries, Inc.

More Mauna Loa

C.J. had his plane ride cancelled on him this morning and now goes up Monday, with any luck. He has some amazing photos from the top of Mauna Kea that I will post soon. For now…a couple of shots from C.J. and a couple from Linda.

The Experience of Eruption

The odd looking one that is just red and black by Linda was taken ten minutes after the eruption started, from our driveway! I have to say…that kind of volcanic sky will fully awaken you instantly. So bright and looked so close that I woke up our neighbors…who were then equally horrified! We live on the side of the Hualalai Volcano, it is active, but not erupting. Geologists have told us we’d only have about one hour to evacuate if that volcano goes off. So, we were a bit fearful that it had erupted. Fortunately, we found out quickly it was Mauna Loa, which is about 20 miles away. Luckily, not a threat to our area.

I am hearing that hotels rooms, cars rentals and helicopter reservations are filling up fast here. Will head out in few hours to shoot until sunrise. I will update you soon on progress. The eruption is showing some minor slowing and the front is advancing at only 40 yards an hour toward the Saddle Road…still two miles or so away.

Lava Tubes

Currently, I am half way through writing a new book about a terrifying adventure that Linda and I had inside a remote lava tube. I saw it today and that lava tube is now under about 30 feet of new lava. For those who have been to the top of Mauna Loa Access Road…that one lane road up to the NOAA station at about 12,000 feet…the flow crossed that road at the steep turn that has the white cell tower structure…the area of a lot of lava tubes. It is completely covered.

Although the Mars simulation structure and the NOAA structure seem to be spared so far, but both are cut off from electricity and the NOAA station can not be reached by car.

Come see this if you can. Certainly well worth the trip.


Don Hurzeler for C.J. Kale, Linda Hurzeler, and Lava Light Galleries, Inc.

Mauna Loa Eruption

I got a call from C.J. at 11:50 PM on November 27, 2022. C.J. does not call me a lot at midnight. We had three earthquakes earlier and C.J. called to say that he believed that Mauna Loa had erupted. I ran outside and looked at the sky. It looked very similar to the photo in this blog. The palm trees in the lava glow, a very unnerving, scary, and amazing sight. C.J. was at my house fifteen minutes later and we were off to photograph the eruption event of a lifetime!

Linda, C.J. and I have been on this event most hours of the day for days now and we are all pretty worn out. As I write this, early in the morning on December 2, C.J. is in a small plane circling the summit. I certainly cannot wait to see his photos.

The three photos above are just some starter photos I had handy for this blog. I will do a new blog soon that will feature the shots from C.J and Linda.

As for the eruption itself…this is an absolute must see if you are a lava or volcano fan. My recommendation is that you not wait… Thus, as Mauna Loa eruptions pump out huge volumes of lava,  sometimes they come to a full stop quickly. This one is going at full speed, but the future of it is unclear. Sooner is better than later.

What to Expect if Visiting

The island is normal with a few exceptions. VOG or the smoke/gas/particles in the air from the eruption is an issue for some. However, the winds have been kind to us here in Kona so far. That can change, and some people have real health problems when the vog is heavy. Traffic at the site is chaotic during normal people hours. C.J., Linda and I are not normal people and we are there when others are sleeping. Additionally, we can tell you how to best approach the site to cut down on traffic problems and to be safe. It is not currently a safety issue for any of us…we are all viewing it from a distance.

As this eruption continues, and the press stops trying to make this look scary, we expect tourism to pick up and hotel rooms to become scarce. So, act fast if you want a room and car. Helicopters are still available, but you will have a hard time booking one at sunset or sunrise or with the doors off. Those are taken by the press and photographers at the moment. Additionally, if you come, bring a winter coat and a flashlight. Some of the best viewing is part way up Mauna Kea…and that can be 8,000′ or higher with snow likely on the summit.


The location of the eruption is the easiest to get to. It is about an hours drive from Kona, where you can still see the glow. Visitors tell us they saw the glow in the sky from their planes as they arrived on island. You go over the Saddle Road, which goes through the middle of the island connecting Hilo and Kona. Half way across that road, look to the right and there is the eruption. The county is setting up a viewing area and seeing it from there or elsewhere may involve some traffic, but the rest of it is easy.

Today’s Conclusion

The eruption itself is at the summit of the 13,000’+  Mauna Loa… although the mountain that does not have all the observatories on the top. It is shooting a long line of fountains hundreds of feet into the air. The lava has filled up that part of the crater and is overflowing down the side of the mountain…to the left of the summit as you view it from Saddle Road.

At this writing, those rivers of lava have come to within a few miles of the Saddle Road and are expected to cross the road in the next week. Resulting in problems for those of us who live here. That is the commercial road that connects Kona and Hilo. Most of our consumer goods come over the mountains on that road. The front of the lava flow was about 20′ high at one point…this is a massive flow. Currently, the eruption has showed no sign of slowing.

If you need info, you can text me at (808)938-8383 or email me, [email protected]. Just know that I may take a bit of time to get back to you. More to come in the next day or two, I will keep you posted.

Aloha and happy holidays ahead!

Don Hurzeler for C.J. Kale, Linda Hurzeler and Lava Light Galleries, Inc

P.S. In conclusion, to show how chaotic things are at the moment, CJ just called me to let me know he got cancelled out of his flight this morning and will go in a few days…ouch!