Fireflies

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by 2F/2F, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Any rules of thumb for an ISO:aperture relationship for shooting fireflies? Dim little buggers that I don't image stand a chance of showing up at anything other than the wider apertures. I had no idea on my recent trip, so tried all sorts of things with Delta 1000 and NPH in an RZ. It was a great shot. I hope they show up. They were rising up in little one-second bursts out of the grass in an old graveyard outside of a WV coal mining camp at dusk. It was the first time I had ever seen them.

    The film is already shot, but won't be developed for a while. I am curious as to what I should expect.
     
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  2. cknapp1961

    cknapp1961 Member

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    Sounds interesting, hope to see these images posted. I have thought about trying to photograph fire flies, they were everywhere in Southwest Michigan.

    I have been stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC for seven years and have never seen any here.
     
  3. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    I saw them for the first time a couple of weekends ago at our cottage near Regina Beach, Saskatchewan. They are pretty amazing.

    I'm not sure how you would photograph them. You'd need to have an absolutely dark night, well away from the city with little or no moonlight to have much of a chance of recording them, I suspect.
     
  4. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I've seen some "photograms" where the photographer put the fireflies into the same container with color materials. The results IIRC were displayed as backlit transparencies.

    But I have no idea what light levels they produce, or what an appropriate exposure would be.

    Lee
     
  5. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I once spent quite some time optimizing for fireflies and here was the technique I figured out: long exposure (a second or two) for the firefly's blinker; short flash exposure to freeze the body and boost the ambient. Occasionally the two exposures will coincide satisfactorily and the blinks will be in the right place. Sometimes the blinks will be trailing the body which is also quite amusing. This usually worked best with the flash synched to the rear curtain. Take a lot of shots and you'll get a few keepers.

    I never bothered trying to get them in flight, for obvious reasons. Instead I captured them, rattled them gently to disorient them, and then set them on a leaf where the camera was set up. After being deposited on the leaf, they will be a bit dazed and will move slowly, but their blinking can be triggered by warm breath.
     
  6. mhanc

    mhanc Member

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    I have them in my yard each summer about this time. They are fascinating to watch in the evening and are usually out when is is just barely dark. My kids loved to catch them and put them in a jar for a short time. I seem to notice that there are a lot more of them now than 10 years or so ago - I attribute this to the decline in the use of pesticides, particularly in residential areas.

    I think it might be interesting to try a time-lapse shot - one might be able to capture not only the same individual on its journey, leaving a blinking trail of light on the film, but maybe several others as well in the same shot. Their light is pretty dim though.
     
  7. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Something like this pic from Wikipedia would be great to get:

    [​IMG]

    The dusk lighting in which I shot was very similar, if not a tad darker due to being under a bunch of trees.

    Just like fireworks, it would be film speed and aperture that determine how the trails show up, and shutter speed to control the ambient light.

    I was not hoping to take pix of the beetles themselves. I just wanted the trails to show up in the picture of the cemetery.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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  9. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Thanks, all.

    My films were 400 and 1000, and I tried all sorts of apertures from f/4 to f/16, and shutters from '2 to 60 sec. I even grossly overexposed some shots hoping to be able to capture more bugs and then print through the density.

    Based on that ISO 100 pic at f/4.5, my f/5.6 - f/8 shots on the NPH might work out well, and so might my f/8 - f/11 shots on the Delta.
     
  10. yellowcat

    yellowcat Member

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    Fireflies near Reading England

    [​IMG]
     
  11. WolfTales

    WolfTales Member

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    Did try this experiment last year with a 35mm camera with a wide angle lens and 400 speed Fuji 400 Superia open for about 2-5 minutes. I was a little underwhelmed at the results but did manage to capture a images of the glowey buggers doing them loopdiloops of love.

    The wide angle compressed the shots, so the already small flight path got compressed even more on a small film format.

    It was fun all the same being in the meadow together with these little sugar pixies and witnessing their 2 weeks of airborn freedom as they rejoice from emerging from their pupae stage from underground for 2 years.

    However the poor buggers starve themselves to death during the process to pass their torch along, and this is really a tragedy. If they only knew how to eat.

    On top of that, there are sneaky ambush fireflies, from what I hear in the latest scientific firefly research, that attack/canabalize unsuspecting male flashers.

    So mayhaps perchance this summer I'll take out the RZ and see if I can get closer in on their flight patterns some how.

    Cheers
     
  12. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    What was the f stop that worked best for you, WolfTales?
     
  13. WolfTales

    WolfTales Member

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    Well I said to hoots with reciprocity of failure and just left the lens wide open for 2-5 minutes at a time at F1.8

    Thats the shot I actually managed to get something discernable. At f16, it was too dark to see the glow trails.

    If I try it again this summer I will go with a normal lens and choose a field with a higher concentration of glowworms to darkness ratio and faster color film like 800...
     
  14. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  15. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    I think George H. Seeley's "The Firefly" is my all-time favorite photograph. I managed to acquire a copy several years ago.

    I always am pleasantly surprised and amazed when they suddenly appear around here. It seems they were a couple weeks later this year. I hope that does not portend a dire ecological situation.

    Joe
     
  16. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Wow! How did you manage to get the same command for seven years!? Or is it different commands at the same post?

    In the submarine field I was in, it was 1-1/2 to 2 years training, then:

    * First Sea Tour: 4 to 4-1/2 years
    * First Shore Tour: 3 years
    * Second Sea Tour: 5 years
    * Second Shore Tour: 3 years
    * Third Sea Tour: 3 years
    * Third Shore Tour: 3 years
    * Fourth Sea Tour: 3 years
    * Forth Shore Tour: 3 years

    Even if you volunteered for back-to-back sea tours, they moved you to a different boat, and likely a different base altogether.
     
  17. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Thank you.

    Are you positive it was f/1.8? That is not too common on wides. Which wide-angle f/1.8 lens do you have?
     
  18. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I would go with WolfTales' advise - wide open, 1 second to minutes, and fast film in a very dark field.

    Steve
     
  19. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Having lived in SE Michigan for 40 some years I can vouch for the firefly population. I remember a story from about 33 years ago about some guys sharing a pipe one night in the woods behind my folks house. As they stood in a circle passing the pipe back and forth an abundant flock of fire flies flew around them until one flew into the pipe itself -- sizzling like a tiny sirloin as it flared up for the last time. No photo's were taken to my knowledge.
     
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  20. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    A couple of years ago I was returning home just after midnight from a trip to Des Moines, IA. I drove into an area of thousands of fireflies. I felt a little bit bad as they kept hitting the windshield, their chemical entrails leaving a ghostly glow on the glass for several seconds after their demise.

    I stopped the car got out and was mesmerized by the number of them in the fields all around.
     
  21. WolfTales

    WolfTales Member

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    2F/2f your right. It was last summer and I have changed camera systems several times.... my bad!

    It was just one big experiment in bracketing really. I think I went through 3 rolls of 36 exposures that night. I learned alot but really it's just a basic starting block for future experiments. I was pretty underwhelmed with my results.

    I tried a couple of lenses that night, a F1.8 50mm and a 2.8 24mm. Wide open.
    For focus, the one that came out the best, I estimated where to focus and then just set the focus manually as a guestimate. Think I tried leaving it at infinity too for shots where there was firefly action beyond 30ft... Those were too dim to see in the photo tho...

    I got better results with the faster lens chasing trails closer up then I did with the wide angle slower lens.

    So basically I would search for an active spot, run with my tripod and camera and 50mm lens and open up the shutter for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Then the activity would die down, and I would scan again, pick up the camera and run to the next spot and take another 30 second to 2 minute exposure and hope I would catch em in action.

    The wide angle experiment, I just left in a field stationary for a long time with the shutter open for 5 minutes.

    Also got some nice star trails at the end of my adventure. Just pointed the camera up with a fast tele lens for 5 - 30 minutes, wide open at infinity.
     
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