When 11-year-old Molly Ambrose is spending quality time with her father, it usually means walking up to the edge of a roaring volcano.
Molly’s father is Brad Ambrose, an award-winning photographer whose job to go to the edge of the Earth and back to grab those breathtaking, lava spewing shots companies are willing to pay top dollar to use.
These two New Zealand natives are part of a camera-wielding, globe-trotting band of adrenaline junkies who make a living traveling around the Ring of Fire to peer into the fiery abyss of an active volcano.
“Every single volcano is different,” Brad Ambrose told ABC's Gloria Riviera for “Nightline.” “They’ve got different-- basically different personalities.”
“Nightline” followed the Ambrose family and Brad’s boss Geoff Mackley on a recent adventure through Indonesia on their latest quest to capture the ultimate shot. Their destination was a remote, violent volcano that few people have ever visited -- Batu Tara, an angry volcano on an uninhabited, inhospitable island.
Mackley, who led the expedition, is a legend in the business and a life-long volcano addict.
“I guess it’s like a drug. When you’ve had something you like... you do it again and again, even though it may cause you harm, I think that is how you describe it,” he said, laughing.
In the past century and a half, volcanic eruptions have killed over 100,000 people, mostly in Indonesia, home to a record 147 active volcanoes.
Going to Batu Tara is risky, even for the adults, and certainly no place for a child. But Brad, a divorced father, is almost always on the road for work, and if Molly didn’t come along, he said he would hardly ever see her.
“Because I actually live four or five hours away from her… I want the time that we have together to be special.”
Molly has been visiting volcanoes with her dad since she was 9, and is well versed in the dangers of getting close to an active volcano.
“Lots of things could go wrong,” she said. “When the lava spits out of the crater it could hit you and you could get burned or rock can hit [you] in the head.”
But what Mackley and Brad and Molly Ambrose are doing is not just for thrills. Worldwide, half a billion people live in the shadow of slumbering volcanoes, and when they blow, as what recently happened with Mount Ontake in Japan, cameras will be rolling. The images that Mackley and Ambrose capture may actually help scientists predict future eruptions, potentially saving lives.
“There would be no point in experiencing that rush if you weren’t going to try and capture it on film,” Mackley said. “You’ll be just another idiot standing on a volcano.”
Mackley and Brad Ambrose have been inside some of the most violent volcanoes on Earth. They made a career obsession off of getting close to the Ambrym lava lake, located in the archipelago of Vanuatu in the South Pacific.
“We got the shot and within hours of that footage going online, we were just besieged by media from all over the world,” Mackley said.
But they really cash in when companies like LG and GoPro hire them to help shoot commercials there and they believe Batu Tara could be their next big money-maker.
But when the group set up camp on this remote uninhabited Indonesian island, one very angry volcano started to wake up and put the group in a hellish and dangerous position, and thousands of dollars’ worth of incredible volcanic eruption footage was in jeopardy.