Close your eyes and hear the wood cracking inside the giant stove in the middle of the typhoon. Hang in there, you can feel the power of nature knocking you down. The wind is blowing so hard, as if the flurries hit you from miles away. Get closer; you can swear a dragon is frying a dinosaur in a hot pan, fat sizzling all around – right?! 😉.

You open your eyes and cannot but ask yourself if this is what Hell looks like. Tongues of flames leap from the ground, curling in the air, falling heavily everywhere. Some stick together and form the wall, which will soon become the crater. Others are flowing slowly, like a troubled mountain river.

What is a splash of fire reaches you?! You cringe with the thought, your whole life crosses your mind, and you try to forget the silly thought – you know there would be no escape, anyway. A big smile appears on your face instead, a pure joy, just like when you were little and your grandmother gave you a taste of your favourite quince dish – “mâncare de gutui” 🙂.

The thrill you’re feeling becomes the emotion of the unknown and turns into the excitement of being there. Although you are high on top, and the fire is burning way down, in the pit, you kneel before it. You’re feeling so small! A tear is falling over your big smile – and you’ll never know what it means. Is it awe, happiness, fear, longing, dreaming? – an amalgam of feelings, mixed with salt, are falling from my eyes.

The eruption of Meradalir volcano in Iceland: it made me feel so insignificant and so overwhelmed by the majesty of nature.

I would have liked to give more freedom to my emotions, but the thought that I had to get to work and capture the moment, echoed in my mind. The camera was already on the tripod, filming the lava gushing 15 meters up, but I just didn’t have that special angle, to get an exceptional frame. And I couldn’t leave the show without a unique picture, so I shyly raised the drone.

It was wandering from one spot to another, trying to find its place among dozens of other drones, all on the mission to find the perfect frame. I was so afraid that I could transform it into ashes, if I blink. Despite all my focus, too much heat and the heavy traffic messed it up, and I lost connection for a while. When I regained control, I was the one who got lost.

Trying to escape my thoughts, the elephant suddenly woke me up.

A fire-raised baby elephant, furrowed by rivers of lava, with its trunk running up and down its back – a fountain of flames, from which rose the smoke that formed the clouds of the Reykjanes peninsula. An ephemeral elephant, which gently, gently disappeared after a few minutes of mad commotion and turbulent movements of the volcano. Although you’d think it was an apocalyptic picture, it didn’t seem that way at all. Meradalir was a decent volcano, it erupted far from civilization and didn’t affect the way things were going in Iceland. On the contrary, it united people and left them speechless in front of nature.

I realized once again how small we are, how short life can be and that, no matter how much we have evolved, we still cannot control the force of the earth or the sky. And we shouldn’t even try.

Fighting nature is mission impossible. Understanding it and preventing disasters is the solution!

Meradalir was the second “volcanic” experience for me, not even a year away from the first. It’s just that for the first time our path was paved in advance, literally and figuratively.

Fagradalsfjall had already been erupting for several months, I had seen it in dozens of pictures before I met it, and the path to it had been travelled by thousands of tourists and photographers. However, I was among the first ones to witness the eruption, less than 24 hours after it began.

Fagradalsfjall volcano – 2021

I would even call myself “extremely lucky”. I had only one day left to explore Iceland, the plans were already made, the plane booked and the accommodation paid for. It was August 4 (at 5 in the morning we were leaving for Faeroe Islands) when Ionut Trandafirescu called to tell me that the volcano had just erupted and suggested that we go together. I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about, I thought Fagradalsfjall had re-ignited – and it seemed quite impossible to get a second chance, anyway. Not to mention that just the day before, I was looking for information on active volcanoes in Iceland and found nothing but some natural earthquakes.

Fagradalsfjall volcano – 2021

His enthusiasm was contagious and, before I realized what was happening, I said a big yes to the volcano hike that very evening. I quickly took off the list the two waterfalls – Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss, some of the most beautiful in Iceland, attractions that paled easily in front of the volcano. No other goal now stood in my way to Meradalir, I was speeding towards it, marvelling with every kilometre at the splendid cloud in front of me.

The coloured cloud which, I later realized, was actually the smoke of the volcano.

I met Ionut in the Blue Lagoon parking lot, another top attraction that I didn’t even look at. That’s how we met and set out on the road together. I felt like Harap Alb, on the journey of a lifetime 😃. We struggled to find a parking space in the crowd of cars at the base of the trail, that took it easy on the way up.

Fortunately, or not, wildlife photography makes me sitting more than moving, so the trail caught me quite unprepared and exhausted after 5 action-packed days in South Iceland. But Ionut’ steps, bigger and more trialled on the mountain, forced me to keep the pace. As for the landscape, it’s difficult to describe in words everything that surrounded us.

On the left, the sun was trying to set. It was doing it shyly, as only in Iceland it knows how – lasting forever, you can feel its presence even along the short night The crescent moon was watching us from above, while planes and helicopters were non-stop passing. Even if we were on earth, we felt like being on the moon 🙈. One moment I was stepping on large, jagged stones, the other moment I was feeling the soft moss under my feet, like the carpet of a many-star hotel. On the right, was the valley of the black lava, hardened from the last year’s volcano.

Gases were coming out of the ground, here and there. No trees, no bushes – just the red sky, us and the heavy clouds of smoke.

After two intense – both physically and mentally – hours, I saw it. My legs went soft, and not from exertion. It was the baby elephant – or the sign that told me that I can find wildlife in everything that surrounds me, the important thing is to have trust and not to give up. I realized, once more, how lucky I was.

It’s been very difficult for me to take landscape photography, lately, and I only get inspired if somewhere, in a corner of the frame, appears a quiet soul – most of the times, a flying bird. Now the challenge was even greater. In front of a natural wonder, it’s easy to forget about yourself, to get lost, to feel like you’re holding the device in your hand for the first time. Moreover, you cannot help but thinking: what contribution do YOU have? Next to me, there were dozens of photographers all around the world, professionals from National Geographic and many others like them. And in the air, no sign of any bird.

But, as soon as I raised the drone and saw the frame, my thoughts and fears melted into the flames playing in front of me. I felt that everything made sense. And was telling a story.

Although you could easily see what the frame represented, it seems I was the only one with whom the baby elephant “wanted to play”. I choose to be happy about it, and not to consider myself a weirdo 😂

A few hours of silence followed. Although we behaved like noisy girls, the entire way, now the words would’ve had no sense. Any sound, other than the crackling of the fire, was out of place. We remained mute from sunset to sunrise, when we finally left the show, exhausted. It was hard to get away from the lava that was melting at our feet, burning our faces in the cold Icelandic night.

On the way back, the road seemed at least double.

At the end of it, there was no longer a miracle of nature waiting for me, but the car rented from Avis Romania, which I had to drive, tired as I was, at 5 in the morning. The adrenaline from the climb wore off and it was replaced by the regret of not being there anymore, and the frustration of not catching the sunrise at the volcano. Of course, I consider myself lucky, but the goldfish didn’t appear this time, to ask him to postpone the flight I had at 7 in the morning 🫣. Although, good people showed up, instead.

Due to too much excitement, I forgot the remote control of the drone at the top of the mountain, hidden among the boulders.

I realized it much too late, when I was already in the parking lot, my legs trembling in the wind 🤭, and my eyes blurry; all I was dreaming of was the bed. Exhausted, I hardly managed to arrive at the accommodation, when messages started to invade me, from all the communication channels.

That’s how I met Ágúst Óliver Erlingsson, who found my remote control and made superhuman efforts to return it to me the same morning. Nothing could have been possible without the help of Ionut – who got it for me, took it to the bus, and also of the driver – who handed it to me, thus completing the remote-control circuit through Iceland 🙈. This incident was the cherry on top of my experience at the volcano and made me wonder: how many of us, who found 1,000 euros, would mess up his own way, just to return it to the owner?

I later learnt that Oliver, in his early 20s, had set out to make things as fair as possible in life.

So much for my memories, but I don’t intend to fall into melancholy, because Meradalir taught me that life is short. I move on to another dream, planning my next trip to Iceland, this time in the form of a photo tour. Where the objective is not tourist attractions, but the experience of photography, the search for ideal light and “different” frames. Obviously, the focus is on wildlife and exploring the wild world. August 2023, here we come! 🤗

So much for my memories, but I don’t intend to fall into melancholy, because Meradalir taught me that life is short. I move on to another dream, planning my next trip to Iceland, this time in the form of a photo tour. Where the objective is not tourist attractions, but the experience of photography, the search for ideal light and “different” frames. Obviously, the focus is on wildlife and exploring the wild world. August 2023, here we come! 🤗

And since you still made it this far, I’d also like you to know that:

Meradalir is a Hawaiian-type volcano – I was very surprised to see that it does not erupt from a mountain, but from a valley. Indeed, such a thing exists, and it’s fascinating.

Iceland never gets tired and a volcano erupts once every five years, averagely – so get ready to be among the lucky ones.

If you ever meet a volcano, don’t forget (like I did) to take a selfie with it (for grandkids or old age Alzheimer’s)😀.

The drone, even DJI’s newest model, can easily melt under the heat of a raging volcano (I’ve had it, for testing).

If you’re lucky enough to get a seat (and have enough money), you can hire a helicopter, to fly you over the volcano.

Don’t rely on the heat of the volcano – the evenings in Iceland are cold and it’s good to be dressed in layers, like an onion.

If you’re a photographer, don’t expect sensational shots from the first shot – not only that you’re stuck, but there’s plenty of heat distortion.

You can fry sausages over the lava, so if you’re a Romanian, save a few more after Christmas 🙈.