Bromo and Semeru – Drone images of the Sunrise at the Tengger Caldera volcanoes

The sublime view of majestic Tengger caldera volcanoes peeping through the morning mist already excited me back in 2009. Already in those days I noticed the mob that’s harrowing itself up to Penanjakan peak in the middle of the night to watch the sunrise at volcanoes Bromo and Semeru. Almost 10 years after I return, this time with a drone and to observe, that touristic bustle has intensified but also changed.

Onto the mountain in the middle of the night, again

Penanjakan is the one of the highest spots on the rim of Tengger caldera. The peak provides a stunning and clear view of the volcanic valley towered over by Semeru and being home to fire mountains Bromo as well as Batok. In 2009 Semeru was inactive, but today it sends some little puffs of ash into the sky above Java island.

Again, like almost 10 years ago, catching the sunrise means to wake up very very early. This time even one hour earlier, because of the immensely large crowd wanting to do the same. These days, each morning anew, some 200 people gather on top of Gunug Penanjakan. And that’s only Penanjakan, as people going to other viewpoints have to be counted in as well. That is Seruni 1 and 2, Buki or the King Kong hill.

On Indonesian holidays or weekends things become even more busy, as even more hooting selfie-junkies rush in. And there’s the rub: while visitors some 10 years ago were basically all western, today’s tourists are 90% locals. What quite a reflection of growing wealth in South-East Asia is.

All in all I join the sunrise bustle three times. Perspectives that worked 10 years ago disappeared. Hence searching new photo spots is important, what becomes pretty difficult against the background of hundreds of people. Also I want to capture the sunrise with my drone; meaning, that a great vibe, splendid light and calm wind have to come together.

On the first day the sunrise showed its pretty cold, clear and windy face. And if there is no morning mist involving not the merest single cloud, then the colourful morning light has no surface to show its hues. On the other hand one may see stars en masse…

Sunrise flight to Bromo and Semeru

Second sunrise was quite a corker and exceeding all my expectations. It involved dense morning mist in the valley plus a wonderful morning vibe that left me completely deepened into flying my drone. It is very exciting to send the small copter on a 3 kilometres journey starting in 3000 metres altitude to capture images as well as motion pictures. Dense ground mist was so dense that morning that the whole caldera looked like an ocean of candyfloss. It’s everything but one may take for granted and down in the caldera it reduces visibility down to 50 metres.

Wind made the quadcopter sway a little in the wind, but luckily having no effect on final fascinating footage. Already after having landed and right on Penanjakan I can edit and compile a small drone video with the smartphone. Put together with individual music and transitions I can send it onto the data journey to Europe within minutes. Inconceivable, 10 years ago. Many thanks to Ben from Wales, the label head of Gibbon Records, who didn’t hesitate to suggest me UNFUG’s remarkable remix of the MaLms “Soup” as background music.

While I am flying Bromo volcano doesn’t stop to pump its steam column into te sky. At half way I make a stop with my drone to capture a large 180° panorama of the sunrise at the Tengger caldera volcanoes. Also, with a 600mm lens, I can spot the people hiking up Semeru that morning to catch the sunrise over there.

Through volcanic dust up to the crater rim

After a few minutes the sunrise – as beautiful as it was – is already over again. The mob of visitors pushes down to the actual caldera bottom to climb Bromo volcano. They leave an impressive army of jeeps behind, that’s waiting on the “car park” at the foot of the volcanoes. Over the course of the years countless Warungs (food stalls) settled to provide coffee as well as breakfast. My driver Latif is doing his job for 15 years now. Non-stop and every morning he’s driving people onto the mountain and back again. That’s more than 5000 times… The sunrise at the Tengger caldera volcanoes is very big business!

10 years ago I walked the 241 steps staircase up to Bromo crater rim as well. Then as now visitors have to cope with nasty volcanic dust. Most of them don’t have a clue that Bromo has the potential to spontaneously eject a powerful eruption column blasting everyone from the crater rim. These days I save those dust pains and send the drone up. Starting at the very foot of the volcano I fly through a small canyon up to the rim. The drone delivers great footage of the touristic flow going up and down the staircase.

The drone also delivers new perspectives of the volcano and its eroded slopes. Last but not least I send the drone up to capture a jaw-dropping volcanic panorama. And as if on cue Semeru ejects a little ash eruption, as if it wants to be part of the moment, to be the cherry on the cake and show that it is still alive.

My accommodation is located directly at the caldera’s steep wall. Even from there I can send the drone onto a flight to the volcano. In particular, the natural as well as man-made structures in the dust look interesting when being seen from straight above. In the evening Latif takes me to Saruni II viewpoint, from where one my see the Milky Way pretty well. At that time of the year however the stellar constellation is too high to benefit from photographically.

After three days at the Bromo it is time to go further and like 10 years ago that way leads through Probolingo of course. From there it takes the usual 14 hour torture through Indonesian traffic to reach Yogyakarta…

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