Shooting Challenge: Fireflies

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Fireflies

What kid didn't capture fireflies in a jar, hopelessly attempting to keep them alive by tossing in a few torn blades of grass? For this week's Shooting Challenge, you'll capture fireflies again, but this time, on camera.


The Challenge

Take a photo of a firefly. You may call them lightning bugs. (A hat tip to Gizmodo reader Florian Kagerer for the suggestion.)

The Technique

While I've always associated fireflies with July and August, apparently they've been coming a bit early as of late. All I can say is, do your best to find just one.

In terms of technique, try turning the flash off and don't be afraid to seriously lengthen your exposure times - such will allow more light into your lens, and the fireflies will appear like mini comets in the night sky. Assuming you're trying to get a large expanse in focus, you may not want to go with your widest aperture (in order to expand your depth of field, the amount of the shot in focus), either. Stop down a bit if you can still suck in enough light.

From digging around some successful photos, I recommend you try an exposure of 30 seconds if you don't mind streaks - but going for far, far longer is also OK. And if there aren't a lot of fireflies around...CHEAT. Take many pictures in the same spot and stack them if you like. All I ask is that you disclose any such post processing.


The Example

Our lead photo is the result of a 30 second exposure by flickr's qmnonic. Note that the trails aren't as long as you might expect. I couldn't figure out why, then I remembered, duh, fireflies blink. So long exposures will have light trails of a similar length.


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, August 1st at 8AM Eastern to with "Fireflies" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameFireflies.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameFirefliesWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.




this is stupid, fireflies are so rear... i have never seen a firefly. Not because they don't live where i live ....