Puna (HawaiiNewsNow) - Jason Twillman is a farmer in a section of Puna called Noni Farms.
But he’s not doing much farming these days.
Instead, he’s found a new purpose — finding a way to help his close-knit community move forward after the destruction left behind by Kilauea’s months-long eruptions.
The community owns more than 100 acres of farmland. Almost half of it is now under 30 feet of lava, creating a landscape that’s almost alien to those who knew it when it was lush and green.
More than 6,000 acres of lava rock now covers homes and farmland in lower Puna — the equivalent to almost 16 thousand football fields.
Many homeowners are making plans to bulldoze the new rock. Others are abandoning the region.
Twillman has a third option: Showcase the beauty in Kilauea’s destruction.
“The creation. Just colors and formations are just unreal," he said. “Like I feel so blessed to be one of the first ones to see all of this, it’s truly amazing.”
To share the new landscape with the world, Twillman uses the lens of his phone — and relies on some steady maneuvering — to capture stunning images of cooled lava formations.
“There are blues, there’s reds, yellows, greens, I mean you got to look at what type of different metals and how they’re produced and the different pigments that are made to use on houses and in our paints,” he said.
Twillman’s life was turned upside down by the eruption.
On the community’s 100 acres, residents grew everything from macadamia nuts to bananas.
Twillman’s own property was spared, but many of his neighbor’s lands weren’t.
That’s why he’s intent on helping them find a new use for their rock fields.
“I’m an opportunist and I want to take this time to be able to share with the rest of the world what happened here,” Twillman said, adding he believes that the cooled lava formations could become a visitor attraction.
“So much has just been devastation but there is so much beauty in the lava itself, and what remains.”
If it sounds like Twillman’s trying to make lemonade out of lemons, he is.
But he also believes in the power of showcasing the power of Kilauea.
“So the lava itself is a spectacle to see, it’s a beautiful thing to see and just to see what it’s done is a great thing to offer people," he said.
This isn’t the first time that Twillman’s footage has gained attention.
When the eruption started four months ago, Twillman documented a string of lava creeping toward his property from fissures 8 and 22.
“At that point I was able to see the lava, I was able to get into a different mind set of helping and trying to document what was going on to help the community feel at ease because there wasn’t a lot going on,” Twillman said.
His footage got over 200,000 views, but Twillman says that he didn’t do it for the publicity.
“Again, it wasn’t the views. The people that touched me with their words of kindness and thank you and we appreciate what you’re doing for our community, that’s what drove me.”
Twillman is now starting a fine arts company of photographers to put together a collaboration of footage that they took during the eruption, hopefully to tell their own stories of what happened.
And he know that while the Kilauea eruptions in lower Puna have all but stopped, they could start up again at any time. He’s prepared for that — or whatever comes.
“This is the new Puna and this is what people are going to want to come see — the fissure, some of the lava river, the trees that were formed, and that’s what we have to offer now.”