Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Boiling mud eruption

with 40 comments

Mud Eruption 7466

Speaking of strange shapes reminiscent of objects in Surrealist paintings, how about this eruption in a pool of boiling mud? I took the picture on February 24th at Wai-O-Tapu*, which is in an active geothermal area in the vicinity of Rotorua on the North Island. The sputtering of the boiling mud was unpredictable, so I set my camera to 1/500 sec. and tried to press the shutter release at the first hint of a splatter. Many of my attempts didn’t succeed, but this photo did a pretty good job of capturing the phenomenon.

Today’s image of a geothermal feature is the first one from my New Zealand trip to appear here, but it won’t be the last.


* After I prepared this post I saw that the Wai-O-Tapu website says TripAdvisor calls the location “One of the 20 Most SURREAL Places in the World.”

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2015 at 5:07 AM

40 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. wow…how cool is that


    May 5, 2015 at 5:54 AM

  2. Now that is very clever. Fabulous shot, Steve! It does look like a piece of modern art.


    May 5, 2015 at 6:09 AM

  3. Amazing photo, Steve. More than a ‘pretty good job’!


    May 5, 2015 at 6:13 AM

    • Thanks for the compliment. Have you ever gallivanted over to Wai-O-Tapu?

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2015 at 7:54 AM

      • Not that I remember. I was taken to Rotorua when I was very young. I can’t remember much about the visit, except being terrified that I would fall into the steaming hot pools.


        May 5, 2015 at 8:05 AM

        • We’re glad you didn’t fall in, but people have at Yellowstone, the big brother of Rotorua:


          Steve Schwartzman

          May 5, 2015 at 9:05 AM

          • Crikey! That is a cautionary tale. I am not sure of the statistics for Rotorua but I found this reference to a tragedy at the mud pools. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8251536/No-blame-over-hot-pool-death Even as an adult I would most likely be wary of both Yellowstone and Rotorua.


            May 6, 2015 at 6:08 AM

            • The last sentence in that article caught my attention for its straightforwardness: “[Coroner] Bain said there were many boiling mud pools and thermal pools around Rotorua and it was impossible to keep the public out of them if people were ‘hell bent’ on getting very close and running the risk of slipping in.”

              Several times at Te Puia and Wai-O-Tapu the photographer in me felt the urge to leave a path or bypass a fence to get closer to a geothermal feature for a picture, but I chose prudence and didn’t.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 6, 2015 at 6:31 AM

  4. Actually, this photo is better than pretty good. Excellent timing. By any chance did you do a video? I generally don’t but this might have changed my ways.

    Steve Gingold

    May 5, 2015 at 6:15 AM

    • I probably should have tried a video (though that would have required a tripod, and I didn’t have one with me). On the other hand, at 30 or even 60 frames a second, a video wouldn’t have been able to render a “still life” like this image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2015 at 7:58 AM

  5. Interesting phenomena, loved the background info.

  6. Wow, I’ve never seen mud boil before.

    Brenda Davis Harsham

    May 5, 2015 at 7:47 AM

  7. Fabulous! It’s so unlike anything I’ve seen, I’m not sure I ever would have figured it out. The shapes of those splatters are fascinating. I suppose the closest analogy in nature would be lava eruptions. It does looks like a piece of cast metal — almost like those sculptures they make by pouring molten metal into termite mounds.


    May 5, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    • Call this high-shutter-speed image the temporal analogue of what macro photography is in the spatial realm, and that may explain why you (and many other people) haven’t seen anything like it. Speaking of analogies, yours of the molten metal castings from termite mounds is a good one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2015 at 9:10 AM

  8. Reblogged this on My Choice and commented:
    Excellent picture of a natural phenomenon

  9. Great capture! Good job!

    Lavinia Ross

    May 5, 2015 at 12:19 PM

  10. My first impression was of a dropped vase or pot shattering upon impact.

    Jim in IA

    May 5, 2015 at 12:32 PM

  11. Such a fun photo. I tried to take photos of these mini explosions but they were no where near as perfect as this shot. Love it.

    Raewyn's Photos

    May 5, 2015 at 5:21 PM

    • I’m glad you find it fun. As you’ve seen for yourself, the phenomenon isn’t easy to catch at the right moment, but I figured that if I took enough pictures at least one would turn out okay.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 5, 2015 at 7:01 PM

  12. I suspect there are many painters and sculptors who’d envy this. Great shot!

    Susan Scheid

    May 6, 2015 at 6:46 PM

  13. […] week you saw some boiling mud at Wai-O-Tapu in the geothermal zone near Rotorua. From the same place on February 24th, […]

  14. So cool, Steve. Bloop, bloop, bloop…


    May 19, 2015 at 8:40 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: