Photographing volcanoes can be a tricky and sometimes dangerous endeavor, but when it came to the sudden eruption of Chile's Calbuco volcano on April 22, German cinematographer and time-lapse extraordinaire Martin Heck was in the right place at the right time to capture the oddly beautiful ash and smoke spewing from its vents. The video above is undeniably sublime, yes, but it also serves as an excellent documentation of Calbuco's first eruption in more than 40 years.

In the days prior to the momentous eruption, Heck had actually been in the area photographing around the neighboring Osorno volcano, located about 12 miles away from Calbuco. At the start of this video, you can actually see a brief yet stunning time-lapse — taken from the summit of Osorno — showing the Calbuco peak shortly before it blew.

After several days and nights of successful shooting around Osorno, Heck planned to continue his Chilean journey by taking a southbound ferry heading for Patagonia. However, less than 10 minutes after boarding the ferry, he saw it: "A massive, almost nuclear looking cloud boiling upwards [from] just were we left a few hours ago." After disembarking and scrambling to find a unobscured vantage point for shooting, Heck began setting up his gear.

"We quickly put every bit of camera equipment we could find on the constantly growing mushroom cloud," Heck explains. "We shot time-lapses in 8K and 4K with a Pentax 645Z and Canon 6D. On the A7s, we shot 4K video to the Shogun."

Thanks to this versatile collection of equipment, Heck was able to get several different views of the event that expertly showcase Calbuco's frightening beauty, which he combined to make this jawdropping video.

"This was for sure the most incredible show I've ever seen," Heck writes. "I think this is a [once]-in-a-lifetime event, and I am so happy that we were able to capture it in all its glory."

Witnessing Calbuco's eruption may be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but as you'll notice from his Vimeo and website, Heck is no stranger to capturing the grandeur of the natural world.

* * * 
 
Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.