At Piton de la Fournaise on the island of Réunion, every day is like a glimpse of our planet’s violent youth: Chunks of boiling lava spew upward like molten fireworks, while rivers of fire cut across an ashen, constantly repaved landscape of gray.
Sitting more than 400 miles off Madagascar’s eastern coast, the volcano has been grumbling for 530,000 years, producing extremely fluid, basalt-rich lava flows.
In modern times, it’s been one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, earning its moniker “peak of the furnace.” Since the 17th century, the 8,633-foot-tall peak has erupted more than 150 times.
It’s no surprise that the French-held island’s 900,000 inhabitants treat the volcano with caution. But thanks to drone pilot and Your Shot photographer Jonathan Payet, we get to sneak a peek at the furnace in remarkable detail.
Payet frequently photographs and films the volcano’s ever-changing landscapes and pyrotechnic displays. It’s uncomfortable, occasionally dangerous work: Sometimes, noxious belches of sulfur dioxide require him to pilot his drone while wearing a gas mask.