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 and I will get you an answer.


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

Vog Blog

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.

Does vog cause health problems? It does…for some people. 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.

Questions I have been getting a lot are…Is it safe to see the lava? Are the crowds too much to bear?

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. It is safe viewing.

Is it crowded? 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.

One of the photos above has three white lines near the bottom. Those are lines of cars…taken with a 30 second exposure. The line on the left is the Saddle Road traffic coming up from Hilo at 3am. The one closest to the bottom on the right is the traffic coming up from Kona on the Saddle Road. 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…it is 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.

One last thing…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 shoes feet. Plan to dress warm. We will do so in the future.

Next blog…what camera gear to bring and how to best photograph the eruptions. Preview…you can get some very nice photos on an iPhone…I promise.


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 odd looking one that is just red and black by Linda was taken about ten minutes after the eruption started…from our driveway! I have to say…that kind of a volcanic sky will get you fully awake almost instantly. It was 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 that we would only have about one hour to evacuate if that volcano goes off…and we were a bit fearful that it had erupted. Fortunately, we found out quickly it was Mauna Loa, which is about 20 miles away and not a threat to our area.

I am hearing that hotels rooms, cars rentals and helicopter reservations are filling up fast here. Linda and I are headed 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.

I am half way through writing a new book about a terrifying adventure that Linda and I had inside a remote lava tube…and I saw today 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. 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…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 with the palm trees in the photo…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…and have not stopped. 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…and I can not 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…Mauna Loa eruptions pump out huge volumes of lava and sometimes 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.

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, but 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…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 goes along and the press stops trying to make this look scary to one and all, we expect tourism to pick up and hotel rooms to become scarce…and they normally are scarce this time of year under normal circumstances. 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. 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 8000 feet or higher…with snow likely on the summit.

The location of the eruption is the easiest to get to ever. it is about an hours drive from Kona…and you can see the glow of it from Kona. Visitors tell us they saw the glow in the sky from their planes as they arrived on island. You go up over the Saddle Road…the road that goes through the middle of the island connecting Hilo and Kona…and about 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.

The eruption itself is at the summit of 13,000 plus feet Mauna Loa…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…which will cause lots of problems for those of us who live here. That road is the commercial road that connects Kona and Hilo…most of our consumer goods come over the mountains from Hilo…on that road. There are other roads, but the Saddle Road is by far the fastest. The front of the lava flow was about 20 feet high at one point…this is a massive flow. The eruption has showed no sign of slowing.

If you need info, you can text me at 808 9388383 or email me at Just know that I may take a bit of time to get back to you…normally no more than a few hours. More to come in the next day or two and I will keep you posted.

Aloha and happy holidays ahead.

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

PS…just 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!

Mid-Summer Update on Lava Light Galleries and Hawaii

We are enjoying one of the best summers EVER.  The weather has been great.  The ocean has been calm (with one epic exception…more in a moment), warm and crystal clear.  We have had a steady stream of relatives, visitors and old friends.  Covid is still around, but those who catch it here or elsewhere seem to be having minor symptoms.  Crowds are less than normal.  The volcano continues to continue to erupt, with a something like 26 BILLION gallons of lava now in the lava lake.  No lava has shown up outside of the caldera…so it is not running on the ground nor into the ocean.  Air quality is good and skies are blue, but not crystal clear like before the eruption.  For most, the volcanic “fog” or vog has not been an issue.

Last week we had the biggest south swell that any of us can remember.  We had about four days of HUGE surf.  There were waves breaking over the roofs of two and three story condos at Keauhou.  We traveled to South Point to photograph the amazing swell at sunrise and were greeted by 30 foot faces on the windblown waves.  The swell shut down many beaches and did a bit of damage.  And then…it went completely away.  It had been caused by a hurricane that passed well south of the islands, but that storm produced waves the size of the biggest winter waves we’ve had here.

The Milky Way photography has been some of the best ever and should remain that way until September or early October.

Could not resist putting one of my bird shots on this blog. That cute little guy is just feet away from me in my office and enjoying a summer sunset.  He is a java sparrow.  The wave shots are from South Point, Hawaii…southern most part of the USA.

Our gallery is open seven days a week from 10AM to 8PM.  Life is good.



CJ Kale, Linda and Don Hurzeler







April Update on the Big Island

A quick update on the eruption, the Big Island and our gallery…

The eruption continues, all of it within the Halema’uma’u crater.  It has built up a lake of lava that is quite large, is over 300 feet deep and filled with something like 17 billion gallons of lava.  It is quite a sight.

To view the eruption you go to the opposite side of the crater than you used to visit before the crater collapsed…opposite of the Jaggar Museum.  That Museum is still closed, but there are viewing areas around it that are quite good.  The real prize is the view from the Crater Rim Road observation area.

You get to that area by entering the Volcanoes National Park, taking the very first left turn and heading downhill to the Devastation Trail Parking lot.  Park there and look for the outhouses and signs that are on Crater Rim Road…right where you enter the parking lot.  Bring a jacket and a flash light.  The crater is best viewed at night.  It will look almost exactly like the photo in this blog.

For photographers…bring a wide angle lens for shots like the one above and a telephoto of at least 200mm, if you want more detail from the lava lake and any fountaining that is taking place.  Also…got to have a tripod…that wide angle shot is 30 seconds at low ISO and wide open.

From the parking lot, it is a one mile hike on flat, paved road and a one hundred yard walk on a lava rock trail to get to the viewing area.  The area is safe (or as safe as anything can be inside a very active volcanic area) and legal.  It is also well marked.  Avoid sunrise and sunset if possible…those times are often so busy that you can not find a place to park.  I also suggest that you check the Volcano, Hawaii weather report…look at the hourly report…and expect that it will rain if it says the chances are 25% or higher.  Not a lot of fun out there in the rain.  You can also check to see the current volcanic activity on the USGS…the Geological Service site…looking for the twice daily reports on the eruption from Kilauea.  Eruptions vary in intensity…and can go out completely and quite quickly…but the report will give you a good update.  If it does go out, it is likely to come back on in a day or two.

Call me at 808 9388383 if you get lost or need advice…Don Hurzeler.  My phone is usually on until about 10 pm…later if I am at the volcano.

The whales are leaving…still a few around.  The surf is going down and the sand will soon return to the beaches.  It has been a busy winter, but visitors will start to leave in a couple of weeks and not return until mid June.  Mantas have been abundant…I swam with 30 the other night.  The Milky Way is starting to look great…as long as the moon is down.  Most businesses are open…the ones that survived the pandemic.  Restaurants and rental cars seem to be the pinch points.  As of now…and things could change quickly…the pandemic protocols are gone…no masks required and travel no longer requires a bunch of paper work and tests.  And no surprise…prices of everything are going up. Supplies are adequate, but not great.

Waipo Valley is completely closed…you can not even walk down to it.  They are working to find solutions to the dangerous road and may have something soon. However, the original notice said it would be closed to any one other than valley residents until 2025…OUCH.  The Mauna Kea summit is open, but things are still a little bit controversial up there…check before you go.  I know all of the services have been going each night, so I am guessing it is settling down.

Our gallery is doing great.  CJ just returned from a long trip chasing aurora in Alaska…and he scored big with some great shots.  More about those shots next blog.

Come see us if you can…and I am thankful that things are finally returning to near normal.




Don Hurzeler…for CJ Kale and Linda Hurzeler and our entire Lava Light Galleries, Inc team.









Winter Update for Hawaii and Lava Light Gallery

Winter is “mo betta” on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Our day time temperatures are down to the mid to low 80’s.  The ocean is about 78.  And the volcano is erupting.  All in all, not a bad place to spend part of your winter.

Here are the facts…covid remains a problem here and elsewhere.  Check the travel requirements before you book your trip.  We have lots of visitors on the island, so we are certainly not shut down.  It appears that the current surge may be lessening, but that is something you will always want to check before you travel here or anywhere.  Our gallery is open seven days a week from 10am to 8pm.  Masks are currently required inside retail establishments.

The volcano has put on an amazing show for months now.  The caldera currently has something like 12 billion gallons of liquid lava in the lake at Halema’uma’u.  However, it has been intermittent lately…goes on and goes off without much warning.  I took a friend out a few weeks ago and we caught a classic night of eruption.  We went the next night and got there just in time to see it completely stop erupting…and it did not come back on for three days.

If you do come to see the volcano, some advice.  The Park Service has provided an EXCELLENT viewing area on the opposite side of the caldera from the Jagger Museum.  You access it by driving down Chain of Craters Road, go past the Thurston Lava Tube about a mile or so and then look for the Devastation Trail Parking lot.  Park there and look for the Port-a-Potties…they are at the start of the closed to traffic, but open to hikers, Crater Rim Road.  You hike one mile down that paved road and then about 100 yards over a decent lava trail to the viewing area.  As long as you stay inbounds…inside the ropes…it is as safe as any other viewing area you may have visited and provides an excellent view of the entire lava lake and the splatter cone.  Lava is often jumping and flowing heavily into the lake.  The photo on the left is about how it looks at night without any telephoto or binoculars. The shot on the right is with a 400 mm telephoto.

The crater is at 4000 feet and makes its own weather…so it can be windy, wet, cold or all three.  Bring rain gear and a bottle of water.  Check the hourly weather forecast for Volcano, Hawaii to get an idea of what you are in for on your trip.  We typically do not go if the rain possibility is over 25% or the cloud cover is 80% or more….but you may have limited time and may have to give it a go no matter what the weather.  However, if it says it is going to rain over there…like 50% chance or more…believe it.  And when it rains, it creates steam and obscures the viewing.

If you Google Kilauea Eruption, you will easily find the U.S. Geological Service website that features a daily update on conditions.  I also look at the “Multimedia” area and go to web cams..then look at the summit webcams to see what it looks like in close to real time.  If it is not red…if you do not see lava…you can be pretty sure it has shut off temporarily.  Could be back roaring tomorrow…keep checking.

And I hate to tell you this, but the best time BY FAR to see the volcano is at night.  It just does not look anywhere near as vibrant during the day.  Sunset and sunrise are often crowded.  If you are a photographer, we highly recommend 12am to 5am.  Remember to clean the front of your lens on a regular basis…there is often moisture in the air there and it will make you photos look out of focus if you let it build up on your lens.

The humpback whales are back.  I have not noticed them in big numbers, but there are plenty around.

We have had lots of mantas on the night time manta excursions.  You can get up close with them by snorkel or as a diver.

This is the time of year when we can get big surf…so be careful out there and never turn your back to the ocean.

Restaurants are not as plentiful as in the past…suffering still from lack of staff and covid restrictions.  Same with retail, we lost a lot of our small businesses during the past two years of the pandemic.  Rental cars are more reasonable than they were a few months ago, but book them early. However, for those who do come to visit, adventures and beaches and fun things to do are in good supply and not as booked up as normal.

That is a quick update.  If you have a specific question, feel free to call me at 808 9388383…just keep in mind our Hawaii time zone.  I am a bit cranky when I answer the phone at 3am.

Hope to see you soon.   Aloha,


Don Hurzeler and all of us at Lava Light Galleries, Inc.






Lava Light Lesson #40…The Photo Skill We Never Mention

Got to admit, I am pretty proud of these two shots…colorful, clear, stop action on a fast moving bird in low light.  If I had a third arm, I would use it to pat myself on the back for these two shots…I love them.

So there are a couple of lessons here.  First, I could never have gotten either shot without the proper tools…a great camera body (Sony a1) and a great lens that is both telephoto and gathers lots of light (Sony GM 400mm 2.8).  Admittedly, these are expensive tools, but much needed if you take photos for a living, as we do.

Second, neither shot just happened.  I got the birds used to having me around.  I showed up at the same time each day with some peanuts or sunflower seeds for them to enjoy.  I watched their flight paths so I could pick a spot where I knew they would eventually cross.  I tried all kinds of speeds and settings to get the shot I wanted.  I settled on 1/4000th of a second, at f2.8 to 4.0 depending on the fading light (f4.0 is much better and gives more depth of field) and an ISO of 400 to 640…although the horizontal one was taken at 1600 ISO…as the sun had about set and I thought I might give it a shot (I hate high ISO but this one worked out well).  So, the shots did not just happen because I got lucky…I planned my luck.

And here is the part we do not normally mention…I probably shot 10,000 cardinal shots over the last two months to get these two shots.  Got some nice shots…and two great shots.  Also got thousands of misses, which we call “deleters”.

So, if you are seeking that great shot of whatever the subject, come prepared with good tools, observe the situation and put together a game plan, make adjustments as needed and wear out the shutter until you get the shot that will cause you to grow your own third arm.



Don Hurzeler




A quick update for our Lava Light family of friends.  Kilauea is erupting.  CJ and I have been out twice already and it is beautiful.  The eruption is contained entirely inside the caldera and it has already built up a sizable lava lake.  You can not yet see the lava directly from any of the legal observation areas, but if the flow keeps up at this rate, you may be able to see it soon.  Night time is best to see the plume as a bright orange and yellow.  It is quite a show.

Crowds in the park are sizable at sunset and evening.  They thin out at midnight and stay that way until dawn.  We love being there an hour before dawn…perfect conditions.

Along with the eruption comes the vog…and it is back.  We have lost our bright blue skies for the moment.

Covid has been a real problem here, but the numbers are now going down.  Still an issue and visitors are few at the moment (the beginning of October is normally very busy with Iron Man visitors…but the Iron Man was moved to Utah for this year so things are pretty slow here).

A couple of whales have already been spotted, but the heaviest number of whales do not arrive until December.  Don’t expect to see any during the October time frame…if you do it will just be one or two.

Retail and restaurants are still impacted by the pandemic.  There are enough open to serve your needs…but it is not wide open with lots of choices.  We are hoping that will change come Winter…but who knows at this point.  About 70 percent of all eligible people on the island are now vaccinated.  There are still mask and other restrictions in place…and you will need to check on up to date travel requirements.

It is a great time to visit, if you can put up with some covid related hassle.  Crowds are small.  Our gallery is open 11-7 daily and by appointment if you want to visit at some other time.  We have been doing great business since last October and we are very grateful for the support of our returning customers.  We have missed our Canadian friends and hope they return in large numbers this Winter.

We are healthy and happy and can not wait to see you.  Aloha.