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Camping on the edge of volcanoes, braving 110 degree waters, getting dangerously close to molten hot lava pouring into the ocean- these are just a few of the risks CJ Kale and Nick Selway take in order to get the shot. And they astounded the world with the first ever photographs of lava meeting ocean from this perspective. Capturing images of the explosive moment by way of water, these two photographers innovated a new standard of photography. Seeking an image of red-hot lava meeting the ocean through the barrel of a crashing wave is the shot they were after. And from seeing their gallery online, I’d say they achieved this and much more.
Originally from Lake Stevens, Washington, Nick Selway developed an eye for photography at an early age. After college, Nick moved to the Big Island and became fascinated with capturing the volcanoes and lava of Hawaii. CJ Kale hails from the west side of Oahu and, like his friend Nick, moved to the Big Island after college. Deeply moved by nature and its inevitable ways of transformation, CJ spent his days in Hawaii capturing the beauty of the Kilauea volcano.
Lava Light Galleries is a shop located in Kailua Kona on the Big Island, which display Nick and CJ’s work. Co-owners of the gallery, the two artists strive to produce work that exemplifies their unique outlook on life, and do so in a never-before-done type of way. This motto is what led them to risk their lives in the attempt to capture the lava from the water perspective that has made them a national news sensation.
From the black lava beach, CJ plunges into the ocean, only feet away from the lava’s entry point into the waves. The ocean temperatures are near scalding and lava bombs float nearby. The shorebreak of this beach pounds heavily onto the lava rock, and CJ must expertly navigate through the rough waters just to stay afloat. In a video of CJ in the water, you see him bobbing dangerously close to the liquid lava, which glows red with heat. Finding the perfect positioning timed with the right wave, CJ gets shorebreak beatings as he strives to get the shot, all while holding onto his SPL water housing surf camera.
Creating a profession out of chasing lava, these daredevils succeed in stunning photographs, but not without their fair share of pain. Last year during a hiking exploration, CJ tumbled down a 20-foot lava tube with 40 pounds of camera equipment on his back and shattered his ankle. The terrain they walk could easily cave in, making for extremely treacherous hiking conditions. Many have died attempting the same things CJ and Nick do, and the dangers are very high.
However, these two thrill seekers make calculated risks with their adventures. With knowledge of the ocean, specific breaks, the lava flow patterns, and photography, CJ and Nick are able to produce some incredible images that most of the world will never see for themselves. They’ve shocked the media with their bravery, and their mission to stand out from the crowd. Present as guests for the live broadcast of NBC’s TODAY Show filmed at The Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki, the two photographers featured some of their shots while also giving interviews and some exciting accounts of their adventures.