Photographing Fireflies

Photographing "fireflies" or  "lightning bugs" is difficult. I have thought about doing it for a number of years, so the minute I saw my first firefly at the beginning of June, I decided to do some research and give it a try. I read an article that said you could photograph them just like star trails, so I went out before sunset. Just so you know fire flies only appear one to two hours after the sun goes down. 

Anyway, to photograph the stars you need a dark environment; plus you need the woods or grassy areas on the edge of the woods and water to photograph fire flies. They actually like the grassy areas between the water and the woods. So I went out to Clinton Lake and got some nice sunset photographs, but no fireflies, with my camera. Mostly, I was just a giant buffet for the mosquitos. Did I mention that you cannot wear any insect repellent because you will drive away the very thing you are trying to photograph. Wearing long sleeves and long pants is highly recommended.

Back to the drawing board. I found an article featuring a Bulgarian photographer Hristo Svinarov, and he actually photographs fire flies in the forests of Romania. What he said made a lot of sense. So I followed his technique and a bit of my own: 1. Take time to know the place where you will be shooting. 2. to make an interesting photograph, just shooting the fire flies is not enough. Make sure you have a great background image with a good composition. 3. This is a little different from his advice because I use a Sony a7III mirrorless camera, so jacking the ISO way up will just overexpose my photograph. So I took 2-5 second Shutter trigger ( provided you do not have a built-in shutter delay system) to avoid camera shake. Plus, you need a good lens. I used a  Sony GM 16-24mm, f-stop 2.4, and an adjustable neutral density filter. I am going to try another lens next time with f-stop of 1.8. The f stop represents the opening or aperture of the lens or the opening that lets light in. The smaller the number the bigger the aperture or opening. 

This technique, at least rendered what looks like fireflies and not smears on the photograph.  I want to try and get a better photograph of them before the season ends. The photograph below was a stack of 20, 2 second exposures right after the sun went down, but you can still see the glow in the background. I want to go to the same spot and try to get a better photograph, soon. Watch for it to appear in the New Work Gallery.