“IT WAS THE EVENT of a lifetime, this eruption of Mount St. Helens that had begun on March 27. That’s what Robert Landsberg decided, and the 48-year-old photographer from Portland, Oregon, undertook to document it with his camera.
During April and Early May he made a dozen trips to the vicinity of the mountain, hiking and climbing to various vantage points. The morning of May 18 found him once more near the volcano, seeing “just one more” eruption.
When the mountain exploded, he has his camera on a tripod, aimed and cocked. As the all-engulfing cloud of ash climbed the sky toward him, four miles from the summit, he desperately cranked frames across his lens, then rewound the film into its cassette inside the camera, took the camera from its tripod, and stowed it in a pack. His wallet was in the pack too – perhaps to assure future identification.
Seventeen days later his body was found in the ash, together with the film that he bought with his life. It contained not only telling images of the blast but also the scratches, bubbles, warpings, and light leaks caused by heat and ash.”
Source: January 1981 issue of National Geographic.
Photo: Giorgio Galeotti