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10 Steps to Incredible Landsape Composites in Photoshop CC

10 Steps to Incredible Landsape Composites in Photoshop CC

Capturing a great landscape photograph is extremely rewarding because a lot of things have to come together in order to nail it. But sometimes no matter how hard you try there’s just a little something missing. In this walkthrough, I’ll show you how to enhance your landscape images with a composite in Photoshop CC.

The main premise is to composite together two or more images to create a new scene. This could be as simple as planting a deer in a forest or it might be more involved with multiple photographs coming together to generate something otherworldly. Either way, the tips, and techniques are the same. It all involves working with colors, tones, and masking to produce something that not only looks realistic, but a photo that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

For this example, I’ll be taking two of my shots, one of a red deer stag and the other of a misty forest, and combining them to make it look as though the deer was in the forest all along. With a few simple steps, I’ll show you how to balance colors, make curve adjustments, and make accurate masks that make the images blend seamlessly together.

1. Import Your Photographs

The first thing to do is to get your images together in one Photoshop document. My favorite way of doing this is to open one photo in Photoshop by clicking and dragging the image into the Photoshop CC window and then simply clicking and dragging the other on top of it. Once the second image pops up as a separate layer be sure to press Enter or click the tick at the top of the window to allow it to import.

2. Make a Quick Selection

Next, I need to make a selection around the deer. I chose to isolate the foreground deer because that’s where my focus lies in the image, using the deer in the rear wouldn’t have been so fruitful as it’s slightly out of focus. I selected the deer layer in the layers palette and used the Object Selection tool (W) to draw a square around the deer. Photoshop then automatically selected the deer using its AI-powered brain and I was halfway to getting a decent cut-out.

3. Refine With the Lasso

I say halfway because there were a few areas where the Object Selection tool didn’t make a perfect job of it. That’s okay though, I simply zoomed in and used the Lasso tool (L) to add or subtract from my selection. If you want to switch between adding or subtracting from the selection just head to the respective icons at the toolbar at the top of the window while you have the tool selected.

There are better ways of making cut-outs, especially when it’s a little more complicated and the automatic selection tools aren’t super accurate. I like to resort to the Pen tool (P) when this happens because I can draw a path around my subject, which contorts and bends depending on how you use it. The Pen tool also allows you to edit the path so that if you make a mistake part-way through you can correct it. But there were only a few sections that I needed to grapple with for this example so I used the Lasso tool instead.

4. Apply a Mask

With the selection now perfected it’s time to turn this into a mask. Head down to the bottom of the Layers palette and click on the Add Layer Mask button. The selection will now appear with the rest of the layer disappearing. If you find that the very thing you wanted to cut out has disappeared and the entire background is still visible (the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve) then with the mask selected press Ctrl + I to invert it and your subject will return (with the background cut out).

5. Resize and Reposition

Now, obviously, your two images may not match up perfectly in regards to relative sizes or proportions, so you’ll have to make some changes if you want things to look more realistic. With the newly masked layer selected grab the Move tool (V) and grab the transform controls around the edge of the frame to then click and drag to resize the image. I prefer to choose one of the corner transform controls.

Depending on your version of Photoshop you’ll either be able to resize the image proportionally or you’ll need to hold Shift while doing this to maintain the correct aspect ratio. You’ll see what you need to do by just moving the transform controls back and forth. I then repositioned the deer so that it appeared to be walking in amongst the dead ferns in the distance.

6. Refine the Mask

I needed to refine the mask further to take into account the extra foliage that would be in front of my repositioned deer. I noticed a couple of overhanging branches from the evergreen trees in the foreground were hidden behind the deer so I reduced the opacity of the deer layer so that I could see both where the deer was and the position of the branches. I then selected the mask and used the Brush tool (B) to paint over the branches to reveal them.

The amount the brush reveals depends on the foreground color so it’s best to revert to pure white for the foreground color. To make sure you’re using pure white simply press D and then X on your keyboard respectively while the Brush tool is selected. This will ensure your foreground color is white.

7. Blend the Bottom

Next, I had to blend the bottom of the deer in with the ferns below its body. I took the Brush tool again and right-clicked on the image to adjust the brush properties. I set a relatively soft brush (Hardness 12%) and chose a large-ish brush size (150 px). That’s because I wanted to gently blend the bottom of the deer in with the foliage beneath, taking advantage of the misty nature of the forest scene which afforded a slight gradation between foreground and background in the photo. I made a few passes over the deer’s legs and belly at 100% brush opacity before dropping it to 20% (in the toolbar at the top of the window) and fading in a few more brush strokes for a more gradated look.

8. Add a Curves Filter

The deer is now in the right spot and has been masked effectively to suit its position in the forest. But it still sticks out like a sore thumb and that’s because the tonal values don’t match the misty forest scene. It’s time to make my first adjustment to the look of the deer. At the bottom of the Layers palette, I clicked on Create a new fill or adjustment layer and chose Curves. The Curves adjustment layer allows me to manipulate the tonal value from deepest blacks right up to brightest whites. I wanted the adjustment layer to control only the deer so I placed my cursor underneath the new adjustment layer, held Alt on the keyboard, and clicked when a box with an arrow appeared. The adjustment layer will now control only the one layer beneath it and not make changes to the forest scene.

The mist in the photograph washes out a lot of dark blacks so I made sure to pull the black point up on the graph to develop more of a gray tone which matched the shadows in the foliage around the deer. The highlights on the deer were also a little bright so I placed a point on the Curves graph near the top-right and dragged it down slightly. This darkened the shadows a little too much though (the Curves graph will react to any points you drop on it and bend slightly) so I added another near the bottom-left to boost the shadows again.

9. Make a Global Adjustment

Now that the deer and forest are matching up tonally I wanted to add a final adjustment layer to tie the two images together. By clicking on a new adjustment layer and choosing Hue/Saturation I then ticked the Colorize box in the window that appeared and set a blue hue. The effect can be quite strong so I turned the Saturation slider down to +18. To balance the two photos I then reduced the Opacity of the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer until I felt there was a good blend between the warm tones of the original photograph and the new adjustment layer.

10. Make a Crop to Finish

You can leave it there if you photo is all done, but since the deer was so small in the frame I wanted to make a slightly smaller crop to make it more apparent. I used the Crop tool (C) and set my aspect ratio to 16:9. I then dragged the handles around the edge of the crop overlay until I found a crop that worked for me. You can reposition the crop by clicking anywhere inside the crop area and dragging it around. Now my landscape composite was done all I had to do was save.

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How To Get an Incredible SSD for Video Editing for Less Money

How To Get an Incredible SSD for Video Editing for Less Money

High-end Solid State hard drives (SSDs) have all but replaced the traditional spinning drives, but for the best SSDs, you’re going to have to spend a fair amount. In this short video, learn how to easily create your own which will outperform many on the market.

Us photographers and videographers use a lot of hard drives and space. I have SSDs and external drives I work off and back up to, then off-site back-ups as well as cloud storage; it’s a lot. With the drives I work off of, I need SSDs to run the files smoothly and quickly as even large PSDs and medium format raw files can be taxing. When it comes to editing 4K video and above, unless you have time and patience to burn, you’ll not only need an SSD of reasonable size, you’ll need one that can read and write at a high speed too.

The problem is for that, you’re going to want an m.2 SSD and so the price just continues to rise. If you’re looking for a standalone m.2 SSD of a reasonable size (4 TB or more) that comes in an enclosure, you’re going to be spending between $700 to $1,000 dollars. However, Cody Wanner walks you through how you can create your own for under $550 by buying an m.2 internal SSD and enclosure separately and combining them.

As is usually the case with all things computer, many are put off of DIY solutions because of perceived complexity and risk of failure. The idea of “building your own computers” is seen as something akin to building your own car, when in actuality, it’s barely more difficult than some Lego sets. This DIY M.2 4 TB SSD has a write speed of 3 GB per second and a read speed of 3.4 GB per second, which blows most ordinary and older SSDs out of the water.

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A Long-Term Review of the Incredible Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens

A Long-Term Review of the Incredible Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens

Canon’s RF system has brought us some of the most extreme and impressive lens designs in a long time, and one of the most show-stopping was the RF 28-70mm f/2L USM. If you have been eyeing this lens, check out this awesome video review that takes a long-term look at its performance, usage experience, and image quality. 

Coming to you from Katelyn James, this great video review takes a long-term look at the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM lens. I have had this lens for a bit over a year now, and it is probably my favorite in my bag. I have never found standard f/2.8 zooms particularly exciting (though they were certainly functional), but the 28-70mm f/2L is something else entirely, offering prime-level capabilities and image quality with the flexibility of a zoom. It is versatile and simply a ton of fun to shoot with. And while it is undoubtedly expensive, it is, in a sense, a good value, as it can legitimately replace a range of primes. In fact, I now no longer own any focal lengths between 14mm and 85mm thanks to this lens. Check out the video above for James’ full thoughts. 

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The Incredible Treasures Found Inside a 1800s Hidden Photo Studio

The Incredible Treasures Found Inside a 1800s Hidden Photo Studio

The Incredible Treasures Found Inside a 1800s Hidden Photo Studio 1

In February, David Whitcomb discovered an attic full of photographic treasures in Geneva, New York. Identified as the hidden studio of photographer James Hale, multiple rare photos — including one of Susan B. Anthony — were discovered. After six months, the full collection has finally been cataloged.

Discovered in the attic of a building he purchased for his law firm, Whitcomb stumbled across a trove of historical treasures including multiple portraits of Susan B. Anthony — a notable woman’s suffrage leader — among other artifacts from a bygone era. Whitcomb tells PetaPixel that after laboring for the last several months, the entire collection is now online to be viewed and explored ahead of a public auction that will take place on September 18.

The prices listed on the website are just to establish an opening bid, and Whitcomb says that he decided not to have any of the pieces officially appraised and has decided to let the market tell him what the items are worth.

“It’s difficult because there’s simply nothing like it,” Whitcomb tells PetaPixel, describing the entire find. “Almost the full contents of a turn-of-the-century photography studio, which happens to contain photos of Susan B. Anthony and other suffragist leaders, there’s just nothing to compare it to, unlike say if you found a signed Babe Ruth baseball, you could come up with a comparable value online.”

The total collection contains 350 individual items of varying interest. From portraits of unknown gentlemen, to a photo of a toddler in a dress, to a circa 1880 Samuel Peck Compay negative printing contact frames, the collection is diverse in both photographic art as well as anitique equipment.

Whitcomb points to a few particular items that he is most excited about.

The Incredible Treasures Found Inside a 1800s Hidden Photo Studio 2

“This is the photographer’s copy which would have been on display in his studio to impress customers at the height of his prowess and her fame,” Whitcomb says. “If you look at the description of Lot #200, the photo, you can read all about the history and why we are in love with this.”

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“This one is the holy grail to me of this find,” he says. “I feel that way for all of the reasons above, but this glass plate IS the image, it was in the room with Susan B when her photo was taken and it’s like seeing her ghost in the glass. Once in a lifetime find.”

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Whitcomb says that everyone involved with the cataloging of the find is in love with this particular item, which he says stems from how fascinating of a piece it is.

“It was made by the Arc Printing Co. Racine Wis and it was used by J.E. Hale for advertising purposes,” Whitcomb explains. “It has the original label on the inside to show some examples of how it is used and instructions for use. After researching the company, there are none known to exist on the open market, which makes it very rare — we don’t believe any others exist.

It is a hand-held ink print stamp that would have been placed on bridges, buildings, paper (for signs), and anywhere else that it could be rolled for the sake of advertising.

“We had some experts from Kodak use the proper ink and recreate the print on special paper, which you can see in the photos,” Whitcom says.

The Incredible Treasures Found Inside a 1800s Hidden Photo Studio 5

“This rare street corner display was used by Mr. Hale to display and lock some of his photographs outside of his studio at the nearest corner,” Whitcomb says. “We don’t have the key to open it, but you can see the thumbtacks used to hang his photos. It’s in excellent shape, and there’s a label but we can’t really read it. It is a very interesting piece and extremely rare.

“In fact, the folks at Kodiak told me they’ve seen this in period brochures to order, but that they’ve never actually seen one in the real world so we’re excited for how rare this find may be.”

Backdrops

Whitcomb says that there are several backdrops from Hale’s collection that are spread throughout the auction, but specifically, a hand-painted canvas scene of an outdoor forest scene is in remarkably good condition. Similarly, another of a hand-painted indoor scene is in what Whitcomb describes as in perfect shape.

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“It’s amazing the number of backdrops we found in the attic, all rolled up and piled together in a corner, which helped them stay in great shape over a century and survive the fire in the building next door which covered most of the materials with silt from the charred roof of the building,” Whitcomb says.

He believes the indoor scene is much older, as it shows the pattern of the floor that it would roll over and more wear from chairs and customers who had their picture taken on it.

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One final piece that Whitcomb pointed to is more interesting to him personally, as it depicts Canandaigua Lake where he lives.

“The crazy thing about this glass plate is that I’ve seen this image before in my lifetime. There’s a poster that says ‘Canandaigua Lake’ of this very picture that you see in various restaurants and shops in town,” he says. “Turns out that this image is by J.E. Hale, it was turned into a postcard which later was blown up into a modern poster. And I found the glass plate negative of it in an attic in Geneva. Crazy to think about and it is a personal favorite from this find.”

The full collection of items found in Hale’s studio can be perused through the One Source Auctions set up by Whitcomb. To see original images of that attic as he found it, check out PetaPixel’s original coverage here.


Image credits: Photos provided courtesy of David Whitcomb and used with permission.

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An Interview With Mayeul Akpovi: Incredible Time-Lapse Videos of African Cities

An Interview With Mayeul Akpovi: Incredible Time-Lapse Videos of African Cities

It is incredibly important for stories to be told by people who have a lived experience of the situation. Mayeul Akpovi does just this with his incredible time-lapse videos of African cities.

Mayeul, who is based in Cotonou (Benin), saw an evolving, yet underrepresented, African landscape before him. There is no shortage of imagery of wild African safaris in media. What is lacking are images of Africa which include the growing cityscapes, seamlessly melding into majestic mountains and sweeping plains. Mayeul wanted to show this near unknown urban Africa.

The feedback on the works has been encouraging and has even garnered Mayeul some funding to explore other African cities, such as Johannesburg, Kigali, and Lagos. He hopes to expand the project even further to include cities such as Accra, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Dakar, Luanda, Dar es Salaam, Cairo, Algiers, Rabat, Kinshasa or Gaborone (to name a few). It sounds ambitious, but also very needed, and I personally can’t wait to see the project develop further!

Previously colonized countries viewed from a post-colonial lens often get a very specific treatment in media. Often, all that is shown are the effects of war or famine. For Mayeul, this project is a means to change that narrative and show that there are multiple layers of beauty and humanity.

Photography has traditionally been a craft reserved strictly for a very specific group of people. However, recently, we are seeing shifts in social structures, which are allowing for more democratic creative industries.

In plainer terms, the reality is that professional camera equipment has always been expensive and inaccessible for people without the means to buy it. Travel photography, again, was expensive unless you had the right connections with the right magazines who could help fund your travel. Showing your work was, again, only really possible unless you had the right connections with magazines or museums.

Instead, we are now in a time where you can get decent camera kit relatively cheaply. You can create an image and instantly put it online via Instagram, Twitter, or even a personal website. The barrier to entry is lower, which in turn means that standing out is harder because more people are creating more and more images daily.

This means it’s even more important for creatives to create more localized narratives. I know I’m loving some of the things video-streaming services are doing; one minute I’m watching a slow-burn drama from Iceland and the next, a reality tv competition from Spain. We’re more connected than ever, and that’s brilliant!

I digress, though. Africa isn’t a singular country but rather a continent of many countries. Mayeul acknowledges that he isn’t able to speak for an entire continent; the project isn’t about that. There have been struggles with gaining access to some of the cities, whereas others have been very welcoming and supportive of his endeavor.

Continuing with this project, Mayeul hopes to create imagery that shows a uniquely African landscape that integrates progress and tradition. His vision is to eventually collaborate with local creatives so that the spirit of the project continues to show this beauty, but in a way where creatives from a place are the ones telling their own stories and sharing the parts of their countries they themselves have grown with.  

Videos and Images provided by Mayeul Akpovi. Used with Permission.
Interview translated between English and French using Google Translate.

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Incredible Architecture – Meet the GuruShots winners

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners

Advertising Feature

We showcase the top-rated images sent in by GuruShots members on the theme of ‘Incredible Architecture.’ For more inspiring challenges to improve your skills and stay motivated, see here.


Top photographer

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 9

Abhishek kehsihbA, India

Top photo 

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 10

Koen Victor, Belgium

Guru’s Top Pick

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 11

Luis Vargues, Portugal


Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 12

Jurgen Bauwens, Belgium

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 13

Xavier@xavierjouve, Team X, France

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 14

Eva Wiedeman, Cape Verde

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 15

Gigi Cioffi Spanola, USA

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 16

Fateen Younis, UK

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 17

Erik Ersson, Sweden

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 18

Ańa Ligier, Ireland

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 19

hodgepodge_jane, Ireland

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 20

Guy Wilson, Israel

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 21

Tim Hall, Portugal

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 22

Rastislav Kašper, Slovakia

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 23

M4RCO, France

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 24

Bernard VAN DE VEN, Netherlands

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 25

Martin Nadymáček, Czechia

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 26

Alex Torres, USA

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 27

Rom’ Rabbit, France

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 28

Alex Vazh, France

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 29

Diane Via, USA

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 30

AceVia, USA

Incredible Architecture - Meet the GuruShots winners 31

Christinesartventures, Singapore


Further reading
My favourite animal – meet the GuruShots winners

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Behind the Scenes of This Incredible Inflatable Pool Backyard Portrait Shoot

Behind the Scenes of This Incredible Inflatable Pool Backyard Portrait Shoot

You’ll often hear photographers claim that a lot can be achieved with very little, and for the most part it’s true. However, that tidbit doesn’t offer a great deal of actionable information. In this behind-the-scenes video, you will see just how far creativity can take you.

Irene Rudnyk is a superb portrait photographer and she has some superb equipment in her arsenal, but what makes this shoot special is it isn’t the camera or the strobe light that makes it possible, it’s her creativity. These types of shoots are not uncommon; portraits of people lying in pools that are made to look like ponds of oceans for an aquatic fantasy aesthetic. However, you could be fooled into thinking they require vast bodies of water, lots of lights, and a ton of setting up to achieve. That is not the case.

Rudnyk uses an inflatable children’s paddling pool for this, masked in two ways: the first is water coloring and the second is a close crop. The water coloring sets the whole mood and can hide the ugliness of a cheap pool’s linings, which would break the spell being created in the final image. The close crop does much the same thing, ensuring the viewer doesn’t detect that the image wasn’t in fact taken in some mystical, watery wonderland. A final tip that is admittedly more difficult is styling. If you can rope in a great stylist for this sort of shoot and get them to tie in hair, make-up, and accessories to fit the color of the water, you are setting up the basis of a fantastic image.

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Here’s How Film Actually Works and Why It’s Still Incredible

Here's How Film Actually Works and Why It's Still Incredible

Ever wonder how film works? A recent video from SmarterEveryDay covers this topic in great detail describing how film works. 

Over the last few years, the popularity of film has been increasing quite dramatically. For instance, Kodak has had to increase its production by more than double over the last few years. The younger generation of photographers that missed out on the film era seem to have rediscovered it. And it seems the tactile and tangible nature of film photography has enticed a wide range of photographers back to it. 

Some people describe film photography as being more authentic and having more life to it. Of course this is a subjective matter, however, there may be something to the claim. The light photons from any given scene are in a sense physically captured on film. In essence you are literally taking a piece of the moment and storing it on film. Once you develop the film you reveal the image you captured. 

With digital, there are lots of interpolations and clever tricks to mimic the scene, but it’s simply not the same. This could be one of the reasons why some describe images taken on film to have a beating heart, or a certain lifelike warmth to it. 

Whatever the case, it’s definitely interesting to see how film actually works. The video linked above from SmarterEveryDay covers this topic with a surprising degree detail. I highly recommend you check out this incredible video. 

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Want to Add Video to Your Repertoire for an Incredible Price?

Want to Add Video to Your Repertoire for an Incredible Price?

Lee and Patrick, the owners of Fstoppers, have shot video for years and recently started using the Sony a7sIII. They’ll swear by it as the best run n’ gun camera body for video use. For the next few days, you can get access to all they’ve learned about using their camera for video in an exclusive tutorial created specifically for this years’ Video Creators Bundle.

Here’s the deal: The Video Creators Bundle will only be available for five days and will never return! The sale ends June 8 at 3 PM EST. You can check out the full list of products here. We’ve included our brand new tutorial “Everything You Need to Know About the Sony a7sIII. 

To keep up in this industry, you have to constantly learn and improve your craft. There is no better way to do that than to download educational resources and tools from dozens of top industry professionals. The best part? You get access to over $4,000 in value for a fraction of the cost. This bundle will instantly become an invaluable resource as you grow your skills, regardless of what type of photographer or videographer you are.

In addition to the incredible educational value of the products, 10 percent of the bundle revenue goes directly to charity. The entire photography community is pulling together on this one to raise $100,000 in these five days. Take a look! Even if you choose not to purchase the bundle yourself, share this information with your friends to help spread the word; there’s something for everyone! I ask this of you because not only is this such a great deal that others will want in on, but it champions some deserving organizations that we are extremely proud to support. We hope you will too.

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Drone Crashes Into Icelandic Volcano Capturing Its Own Incredible Demise

Drone Crashes Into Icelandic Volcano Capturing Its Own Incredible Demise

There are few videos I have clicked on faster than a drone filming itself crashing into a volcano in Iceland. This video shows a DJI first-person view drone as it records the rivers of lava flowing out of Fagradalsfjall before plummeting into a fiery death, all in glorious 4K.

If there’s one thing I really appreciate about some photographers and videographers, it’s that they’re not precious with their gear. To get the truly incredible, singular shots, sometimes you have to put yourself and your equipment on the line and that is exactly what happened here.

Fagradalsfjall is a volcano located just 25 miles from Reykjavik, Iceland. In December 2019, a series of earthquakes hit the area which concerned locals and experts, indicating that an eruption may be on the horizon. In March 2021, the earthquakes were coming thick and fast, with over 40,000 tremors recorded by seismographs. At 8:45pm on 19th March 2021, the eruption started, which is the first to happen in 800 years. Fagradalsfjall is said to have been dormant for closer to 6,000 years. This terrifying but fascinating event attracted locals, tourists, and photographers to see the giant fissures of lava.

However, some took the opportunity differently to others. Joey Helms, a photographer and videographer, took his DJI FPV drone and flew over the winding flows of golden death, but then a little too close to one of the fissures. This saw a quick death for the drone, but the footage lives on and gives us, quite possibly, the first view of its kind.

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