On A Burning Thin Line, Chapter I

Inside the volcano

On A Burning Thin Line by Lane Coder, Chapter I

Whether the issue was timing or a financial drawback, there always seemed to be some difficulty in getting there, however. Even when an ideal opportunity presented itself, when the most important newspaper of New York asked me to cover the great volcano eruption some years ago, the smoke caused enormous disruption to air travel.

It was the unfortunate death of my aunt shortly thereafter that eventually got me to Iceland. She had battled cancer for many years and was much like a second mother to me. She had encouraged me to follow my talent early on. Throughout my life she would take me to museums and galleries. She brought me art books from all over. The death of a close family member often leads to reexamining our own lives. To me, it meant saying no to big jobs that I was scheduled to shoot, packing my bags and heading to Iceland.

By the time we arrived to pursue this personal project, the volcano was no longer erupting. It was summertime on the island, which meant twenty-four hours of daylight giving way to the midnight sun in the evenings. Getting used to the light was somewhat challenging. It’s a different kind of light than in most other parts of the world, and definitely not what I was accustomed to. While, during the day, Nordic light is very bright and full of contrast, in the afternoon it is easily the most beautiful light I’ve ever seen; spectacular and absolutely impossible to describe without having witnessed it firsthand.

After a few days on the road, accompanied by a guide, we arrived at a small hotel in the countryside near the infamous volcano. We were several hours into the evening when a helicopter showed up on the front lawn. The pilot who was hired to bring the guests to the airport turned out to be an acquaintance of our guide. After a quick chat, he made us a proposition: we could take the helicopter and fly to the volcano. A stroke of luck, or perhaps mere destiny.

A short while later we were up in the air approaching the steaming mountain. We flew up its side and around it into the valleys that were recently created by the lava; they were as deep as the buildings in New York City. Still steaming and coated in black magma, they surrounded us just a few meters away.

We had no time to think about the potential danger. We let it sink in swiftly. Our minds worked in overdrive. We flew so quickly. The breath-taking colours and landscape below, so drastically different than anything I’d ever seen before, were a good enough distraction. We saw surreal views of slowly flowing glacial rivers that were pouring down from the volcano and mixing in with the volcanic ash, and passed thinning gusts of smoke as they lowered into its mouth.

A short while later we were up in the air approaching the steaming mountain. We flew up its side and around it into the valleys that were recently created by the lava; they were as deep as the buildings in New York City. Still steaming and coated in black magma, they surrounded us just a few meters away.

We had no time to think about the potential danger. We let it sink in swiftly. Our minds worked in overdrive. We flew so quickly. The breath-taking colours and landscape below, so drastically different than anything I’d ever seen before, were a good enough distraction. We saw surreal views of slowly flowing glacial rivers that were pouring down from the volcano and mixing in with the volcanic ash, and passed thinning gusts of smoke as they lowered into its mouth.

I felt safe, more than ever, like this was the right thing to do. The death of my aunt had played a huge role in my decision to take this trip and I had the feeling she was with me the entire time. The experience was unexpected, but it all happened so suddenly it seemed to synchronize together, as if it was out of my control; as it was meant to be. It felt like her spirit supported my artistic adventure one last time.

In the helicopter, on the way back to the hotel, everything looked even more remote than before. The influence of the twenty-four hours of daylight was a difficult thing to adjust to, yet when the sun began to set, giving way to the midnight sun, I felt happy. It reminded me of what I love most about photography; the solitude of landscapes and spending time by yourself in nature without the need to interact with or direct anyone.

Photography. Lane Coder
Words. Aleksandra Klimowicz
Map. Ángela Palacios

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Lane Coder

Lane Coder

Photographer
Lane Coder was born and raised in New Canaan, Connecticut. He attended Parsons School of Design in New York City where he studied fine art. Moving to Paris, he began studying art history at the American University of Paris. From 1999-2000 He finished his studies at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where he graduated with a BFA in Photography in 2003. A such, Lane enjoys working both as a commercial and fine art photographer. Amongst many others, his clients include “Vogue US”, “American Elle”, “The New York Time,”.
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