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Mount Sinabung – The Volcano and I

By Dedi Sahputra

Mount Sinabung spews hot lava and volcanic ash as it is seen from Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, 09 October 2014. epa / Dedi Sahputra

Mount Sinabung spews hot lava and volcanic ash as it is seen from Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, 09 October 2014. epa / Dedi Sahputra

I first became acquainted with Mount Sinabung in my senior year in high school in 2002. I spent my holidays there, hiking with my friends. In college I joined the Ranger Gunung Sinabung (RGS), an environmental community that also volunteers on rescue operations in Sinabung. When I began my job as a photo journalist in 2006, I kept in contact with my colleagues in RGS.

In August 2010 Mount Sinabung started to show significant changes; in 2013 the volcano erupted and become a danger to the villagers in the area. The experience I had and my knowledge of the villages around the volcano made it easier for me to get good, safe shooting positions.

It was almost midnight on 08 September when I got the first information from my contact in Karo, a small town in North Sumatra province, saying that the Sinabung volcano activity was increasing. I arrived in Tanah Karo around 1:00 a.m. The sky was so bright, no clouds or fog so I could see the mighty volcano clearly. As luck would have it, there was a lunar eclipse, making the sky even brighter. I tried to find a good shooting location and decided to go to Tiga pancur village, located some six kilometers from the crater.

After arriving in the village, I prepared all my equipment, a Canon EOS 7D camera with a 70-200 mm lens, a tripod and a cable release, as the volcano’s activity increased. This excellent position gave me a good distance, clear visibility and almost aligned me with the crater. At 02:00 a.m. Mount Sinabung started to erupt, spewing hot material and ash up to the air. The activity continued to increase so I kept shooting with the 70-200mm lens and 800 ISO setting until I had the best frames. The bright, cloudless sky was the key factor that helped me catch this spectacular moment of the volcanic eruption. It is one of my best ones from Mount Sinabung.

And it was an amazing feeling when I found that the picture was widely used by the major media, such as TIME lightbox and the New York Times Lens blog.

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