The Fourth of July demands fireworks, but big pyrotechnic shows can pose environmental risks like water pollution and wildfires. Some celebrations now host laser shows, especially during droughts, while others use compressed air in lieu of toxic propellants. But one state has the perfect alternative: all-natural fireworks from the active volcanoes of Hawaii.*

The video above was produced by photographer QT Luong, best-known for his 20-year effort to shoot all 59 U.S. national parks. While he often uses an "ancient-looking large-format camera," Luong says Hawaii's volcanoes called for a different approach. "The volcanoes of Hawaii are such a dynamic landscape that to tell their story, I felt inspired to interpret them through motion using time-lapse and DSLR video," he writes on Vimeo.

This is Luong's first finished video project, but decades of nature photography clearly smoothed his learning curve. For the full effect, be sure to watch in full-screen HD mode.

Luong filmed the time-lapse scenes over the past three years, mostly in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. He went to great lengths in search of these shots, such as spending a night by coastal lava flows, hauling his equipment 12 miles up Mauna Loa and filming in heavy rain to catch the Milky Way through a cloud break over Halema'uma'u Crater.

The video's release ahead of Independence Day may be coincidental, but it's still a timely reminder to appreciate America's natural beauty — not just volcanoes, but also amazing scenery nationwide. Four out of five Americans consider wilderness conservation a patriotic duty, according to a 2012 poll, and 75 percent say they'd rather visit a national park for their summer vacation than a major U.S. city. Fireworks will always be an important part of the Fourth of July, but they can't hold a Roman candle to the power of nature.

[Via It's Okay to Be Smart]

* To be fair, volcanoes do release toxic gases, not to mention hot lava and ash.

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