It was with great hopes and expectations that I ventured forth from my house this evening to capture images of the elusive firefly (a.k.a. lightning bug). I had my place selected. It was completely dark, or, should I say, the sun had completely set and the western sky was no longer aglow as it had been the previous night when I first tried this adventure. So I left my visiting guests at home, comfortable with some DVDs and a chance to unwind, and made my way to my selected location with camera kit and tripod in the back seat.
Things were not off to a smashing start. While the sky was darkened, which solved the problem of last night, the fireflies were again uncooperative. Where they had been an explosion of firefly lust, a firefly orgy if you will, just two nights previous, there was now a lackluster show of bio-luminescent last chance gasping in the domain of the firefly. Oh well. I was here and I was going to try this anyway.
I selected my 50mm prime lens hoping it’s superior aperture range may be handy, attached it to the camera, the camera to my tripod, setup my shot and pressed the shutter release button. The camera’s clever electronics had selected an appropriately long exposure for the aperture I had settled upon and so I stood back and let my camera do its thing. When the ‘click’ finally occured that told me the shutter curtain had closed I stood and stared at the LCD screen to see the wonder that was my work. However, “wonder” wasn’t the best word to describe matters. Something new was amiss and it wasn’t something I had noticed until my first image was completed: too much light polution.
Having spent much of my childhood wanting to grow up to be an astronomer I was and am quite familiar with light polution and what it can mean to good night time observing, photographing, etc. And ‘good’ wasn’t a word that was going to be used tonight to describe the photographic conditions. Each long exposure yielded the same rather miserable results. So between the lack of fireflies performing their mating dance AND the light polution I wasn’t really getting any results of merit. Regardless I took a few pics and pondered my next move.
I concede I really wanted to just go home with my tail between my legs and call it an evening. As I turned back towards my car, still contemplating my next move, I noticed the proliferation of insect life buzzing around a light in the parking lot. Suddenly I was filled with photographic inspiration, which is really quite unusual as you may have noted from my Flickr photostream (not that I don’t love my pics, cuz I do, but they aren’t exactly on the bleeding edge of photography or art). Still mounted to the tripod, I turned my camera around and aimed for the erratically flying insects and snapped a few pictures. While they aren’t Ansel Adams work I confess that I thought it was fun. Different. Just having a lark. And I’m pleased with the results. I’m pleased because I thought, if only for a moment, outside the box. I didn’t let conventional wisdom cloud my thinking.
Sufficiently inspired by this moment of clarity I started thinking if there might be another place where I could find fireflies that might also yield a better place from which to photograph them. Maybe in the woods or near woods where the overhead clouds wouldn’t screw as much with my need to photograph these fireflies. So I drove to the one place I suspected would provide such a chance and while the fireflies were more prolific in this location the issue of light polution remained. As a very learned friend of mine once (or twice) said, drat and damn.
So my Flickr photostream has a few miserable shots of my firefly attempts, just to show that I’m not afraid to post failure, but also contains two images of the wildly erratic bugs zooming around the parking lot light, of which I’m rather pleased.
So I have learned…..no…..REleanred one very important fact regarding nighttime photography: preferably no moon (unless that is what you are trying to photograph) and definitely no clouds!