One of the joys of travelling to a new place is getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning to take a look at something unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. And so it was that I rose at 2am (two hours before I went to bed) to make the trip to Mount Bromo, probably the best-known of the many volcanoes in Java. The trip began with a climb to the Penanjakan viewpoint for sunrise, before descending the hill into the low-lying clouds and walking across the Sea of Sand and then climbing up to the rim of the crater itself.
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A couple of days later, after a similarly early start and another pre-dawn climb, I found myself looking out over the extraordinary, otherworldly turquoise sulphur lake in Ijen crater as the sun rose behind me. Choking fumes filled the air, as wandering tourists and photographers crossed paths with tough, hard-working sulphur miners.
These two volcanoes, Bromo and Ijen, are among the most-visited sites in Java, but that doesn’t make them any less extraordinary to see, especially if, like me, you’ve never set eyes on an active volcano before. Memorable sights don’t necessarily make for compelling photographs, however, and I don’t think these pictures are among my best. I struggle sometimes, when faced with much-photographed locations like these, to make photographs that offer anything different to what’s been done before. I think these pictures give a decent idea of what these places look like, but don’t quite capture what they felt like. That doesn’t really detract from my memories of these early morning visits, but I’ll remember Bromo and Ijen more for the experiences than for the photographs.