(Daily Mail By RACHEL RICKARD STRAUSS) – With their vivid colours and alien landscapes, these pictures look like they could be of another world.
They capture two of nature’s most spectacular sights – the northern lights and an erupting volcano in Iceland – in a single shot.
Photographer James Appleton from Cambridge braved the mighty flames of the Fimmvvrpuhals volcano and the frozen bite of the harsh Icelandic winter – and was rewarded with these incredibly rare shots.
He has spent the past seven years capturing the volatile and stunning landscapes of Iceland, and when he was told the Fimmvvrpuhals volcano was erupting, he immediately knew he had to see it.
Working alongside vulcanologists, Mr Appleton, 25, got within a few hundred feet of the erupting volcano to get the perfect shot.
‘On the plane flying over to Iceland I had in my mind’s eye the perfect image I wanted to see, which was exactly this combination of an erupting volcano and the Aurora Borealis,’ he said.
‘I never dared to hope it might actually happen, but seeing it for real put all the hairs on the back of my neck up.
‘When I saw the photographs come through the camera I was jumping around with excitement.’
Mr Appleton could not resist the temptation to get in as close as possible to the volcano to get the best shots. He tried to stay on ridges and high ground to avoid the danger of gas pockets that may have formed, or caves under the snow formed by the heat of the lava.
‘The dangerous moments came when a two day storm blew in and I was forced to take shelter from incredibly powerful winds and blizzards,’ he said.
‘The few times I tried venturing outside I would be blown flat over and along some of the sheer ice, which was pretty disconcerting.
‘That and the occasional earthquake meant for not much sleep. Because of the whiteout conditions I could barely see ten feet in front of my eyes through the driving snow.’
The raw, wild landscapes and rapidly changing weather systems create incredible conditions for photography, says Mr Appleton, who hopes to return there one day.
‘I look for powerful skies and the moments when the world is full of colour and movement,’ he says.
‘Iceland is fantastic as producing moments such as these.’