Each year when summer comes along, we all look forward to different things. Some of us head to the beach, others to the mountains for camping. Some look forward to the epicurean delights like watermelon and ice cones. But for a select group of photographers in Japan, Summer signals the arrival of fireflies. And for very short periods – typically May and June, from around 7 to 9pm – these photographers set off to secret locations all around Japan, hoping to capture the magical insects that light up the night.
One thing that makes these photographs so magical is that they capture views that the naked eye is simply incapable of seeing. The photographs are typically composites, meaning that they combine anywhere from 10 to 200 of the exact same frame. That’s why it can look like swarms of thousands of fireflies have invaded the forest, when in reality it’s much less. But that’s not to discount these photographs, which require insider knowledge, equipment, skill and patience.
Fireflies live for only about 10 days and they’re extremely sensitive. They react negatively to any form of light and pollution, making finding them half the battle. Here, we present to you some a selection of our favorites from the 2016 summer season. (Syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)
Scores of fishing rafts floating in the Uchino-umi highlighted by the light from the full moon
Japanese photographer Takehito Miyatake is known for his accomplished long-exposure photographs of fireflies, volcanic eruptions, and beaches awash in bioluminescencnt firefly squid. His exposures, which he refers to as “the light of Japan,” can last anywhere between 15 seconds and 30 minutes and are rooted in an almost meditative approach to photography that he likens to a form of poetry in an interview with TIME. His time spent waiting for each exposure hasn’t been in vain, Miyatake recently won the Grand Prize at the 2014 Nikkei National Geographic Photo Awards. You can see more of his photography on his website and over on Spoon & Tamago.
In spring, firefly squid (hotaru ika) rise 2000 feet to the surface of the water and offer a fleeting glimpse of their magical lights
Genji botaru fireflies around a small bridge over the Shimanto River (Kochi Prefecture)
The moon lights up a waterfall against geometric rock formations / A close-up of the red-hot cinders erupting from the Showa crater on Sakurajima
Volcanic lightning during the eruption of the Sakurajima volcano
This is a fantastic feat of photography and editing by Vincent Brady who shot this montage of firefly timelapses in 2013 at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri and around his home in Grand Ledge, Michigan. To make the timelapse Brady had to master several different cameras, learn about photo stacking, 360° panoramas, and even how to pilot a pontoon boat to get all the requisite shots. While we’ve seen several articles here on Colossal featuring long-exposure fireflies it’s still fascinating to see them in motion like this. You can read about Brady’s adventures on his website, and learn more about the science of fireflies on It’s Okay To Be Smart. (via It’s Okay To Be Smart)
For the last month or so photographer Yume Cyan has been shooting some magical long exposure photographs of fireflies in a forested area around Nagoya City, Japan. By keeping the camera’s shutter open at a low aperture Cyan captures every bioluminescent flash of each insect resulting in dotted light trails that criss-cross the frame. You may remember a similar series of photographs also shot in Japan from back in 2011. You can see these a bit larger over on 500px.
Taken in various locations around Maniwa and Okayama Prefecture in Japan between 2008-2011 this brilliant series of photographs captures the wild frenzy of gold fireflies as they mate after thunderstorms during the June to July rainy season. Shot using a slow shutter speed, the neon green and yellow contrails seem almost digitally imposed on the scenic landscapes, but I assure you these are real. See them a bit larger here. (via polaroid dreams)