I really liked the tv show Firefly. What I also really like is real fireflies. I will admit that most bugs tend to give me the creeps, but luminescent beetles really fascinate me. I think they are awesome and I could sit out back for hours and watch them.

This scene plays out about this time every year. I forget about it until one night I walk out to the garage and notice the entire river valley is flooded with bright green pulses, indicating the bugs are ready for some mc-lovin’. It is easily one of the most magical things that happens around the farm. I attempted, with mild success to photograph this annual spectacle last year but this year I made some forward steps with my firefly photo skillz and attempted to add in the element of actual lightning from a distant thunderstorm as a backdrop to the lightning bugs.

Photographing lightning bugs is somewhat difficult because they aren’t exceptionally bright, so you have to use high ISO and as wide an aperture as possible…because a long exposure alone won’t work since they move and blink. Photographing lightning is difficult because it’s unpredictable…I have found the best settings to be a low ISO and long exposure. Combining the high ISO for the bugs with a long exposure for the lightning isn’t exactly a recipe for a quality photograph and light in the sky begins to show up… in this case I was fighting with the glow of what I assume was Pittsburg, KS but eventually found a good angle where the glow wasn’t in the shot.

After about an hour with nothing to show, I suddenly remembered that I have a macro lens with a max aperture of f/2.8, much wider than the f/5.6 my everyday lens was giving me and it might actually work for this application. This let me knock the ISO setting down a good 6 steps and turn off the noise reduction setting – allowing me to take shots much more rapidly. The only limiting factor was that this lens has a fixed 100mm focal length, so wide shots are out of the question. Another thing I tried was shooting in RAW format. Supposedly RAW captures more detail and range, but the only thing I could tell for sure was that the files were huge, about 12mb each.

The lightning was far away, somewhere in the vicinity of Emporia, KS. So it wasn’t big, bright, and spectacular but it was all I had to work with. Given the various factors I was ultimately pleased with what I came up with. After about 2 hours of walking around in wet knee-high grass and about 100 mosquito bites I finally captured two shots that I like.