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They call him volcano hunter, photographer triumphs at London Photography Awards

On the fifteenth night, a volcanic enchantment unfurled. The crater, illuminated by molten lava, embraced an encircling cloud – a ring of radiance in the form of an otherworldly show. As I gazed upon the image, a question kept playing in my mind, “Is this a dream or reality?” Unfolding before me and crystallized on screen, it was a marvel.

  • 8 months ago
  • August 12, 2023
5 min read
Negroni's winning shot of Villarrica's surface activity at the moment the volcano erupted Negroni's winning shot of Villarrica's surface activity at the moment the volcano erupted. | Photo courtesy of Francisco Negroni
Interview Subject
Francisco Negroni is a Chilean photographer specializing in advertising and landscape photography. With a unique twist, he’s also a certified Adventure Tourism guide. This dual expertise enhances his understanding of the thrilling adventures he encounters during his photographic journeys.

He recently secured the top spot in the professional category for best nature photography – landscapes at the London Photography Awards.
Background Context
The London Photography Awards program is a global celebration of photographic excellence. It honors diverse techniques and creative approaches.

It applauds a wide spectrum of photographic styles spanning industries, ranging from publications and videos to business services and scientific trades, not to mention the art and photography sectors themselves. 

CAUTÍN, Chile — Night after night I stood vigilantly, trusting myself and the volcano. I felt tremendous anticipation as I sought to capture a formidable shot. Suddenly, it happened. The Villarrica Volcano, covered in snow, radiated an incandescent orange aura from its molten core. High up, a lens-like cloud covered the crater. I admired the view, which magically materialized before me, with my mouth wide open. Though few could grasp that moment, I captured it through my camera lens.

The photo I took won a London Photography award in the nature photography and landscapes category. I felt incredibly proud to be rewarded for my dedication. Those 15 nights spent beneath the towering presence of Villarrica bore fruit as its essence became crystallized.

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From press to nature photography, captivating volcano picture garners prestige

Among the many moments I captured with my camera, one best reflects my deep connection to this work: an image of a guanaco perched on a hill. I crouched down on the ground from a safe distance, careful not to startle the creature. Its relentless cries dancing through the air seemed to echo within me. The guanaco had survived a fire and, left alone, called out for a lost family member.

Another adventurous assignment led me to photograph the Culbuco Volcano. While on the road, a call alerted me to its eruption. I quickly turned my vehicle around and halted in the middle of the road. Suddenly, a massive plume of smoke loomed before me. The early morning hour, cloaked in darkness, was punctuated by sporadic bursts of lightning. At the location, I instinctively employed my technical expertise, realizing prolonged exposure could combine the dazzling lightning into a single frame.

A 12-minute exposure ensued. With the shutter left open, I captured the unfolding spectacle. As I reviewed the screen to assess my capture, I was struck by the surreal scene before me. It was an ethereal sight, almost apocalyptic. At that moment, I recognized I achieved an unprecedented photograph – a visual manifestation that had yet to grace any medium. Overwhelmed with satisfaction, I found myself entranced by the captivating image before me.

After fifteen restless nights, nature photographer captures moment of volcano’s eruption

On the morning of December 7, 2022, I seized the moment. It was the culmination of a night full of patience. My twin cameras stood mounted on tripods like extensions of myself, capturing the region’s sublime grandeur.

I started my work a month earlier in November when I learned about the increased volcano activity, which led to a yellow alert level. I went to explore winding trails, immersing myself in the natural surroundings. While I ventured into the region’s natural landscape, a magnificent view captivated me. I fell in love with the spectacle the nights offered. With this realization, I committed to my decisions, staking everything on this gamble.

Francisco Negroni's Calbuco Volcano photograph won the Siena International Photo Awards 2018
He captured the moment a volcano began to erupt using long exposure on his camera. | Photo courtesy of Francisco Negroni

Equipped with the necessities, I embarked on my journey, lodging within the park for 15 days. Nightly, I aimed to seize potential photographs, encapsulating the surrounding magnificence. Though splendid, the resultant images lacked the elusive impact I sought.

On the fifteenth night, a volcanic enchantment unfurled. The crater, illuminated by molten lava, embraced an encircling cloud – a ring of radiance in the form of an otherworldly show. As I gazed upon the image, a question kept playing in my mind, “Is this a dream or reality?” Unfolding before me and crystallized on screen, it was a marvel.

I felt overwhelmed, and tears flowed as I stared repeatedly, striving to affirm its authenticity. A ripple of certainty coursed through me. Stepping beyond my comfort zone for this shot was the ultimate choice. This image, destined for history’s embrace, urged me to submit it to the contest.

Photographer wins international acclaim, byname volcano hunter

The London Photography Awards draws over 3,800 photographic submissions from 55 countries. Winning this international recognition filled me with happiness. When I heard the news, my excitement was so profuse that tears welled up and I embraced my son. While recognition for one’s work is always gratifying, this instance held a special significance.

Throughout the years, I came to realize that one of the aspects I cherish most about this journey is the freedom to immerse myself in nature. It’s the ability to witness and appreciate natural phenomena, to stand amidst storms and before earthquakes.

Capturing a compelling photograph that transcends documentation, one that encapsulates a sense of aesthetic beauty alongside emotional resonance, has been my guiding aspiration. What’s more, I realized it is about crafting an image that not only evokes admiration but also stirs a profound response within those who behold it.

My creative vision has consistently revolved around shaping landscapes, a pursuit I hold close to my heart. But recently, volcanoes, in all their diverse locations, have bewitched me. Their distinct triangular silhouettes command attention from afar and effortlessly lend themselves to the photographic medium.

Whether contrasted against a river, a lake, a field, or even a humble dwelling, volcanoes consistently radiate a captivating allure. It’s their timeless beauty and captivating geometry that compels me to seek them out. Finally, I have become a volcano hunter.

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