Lightning Bugs at Mabry Mill

June 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Last night, an already exhausted me went out to Mabry Mill for a little night photography.

Mabry Mill Lightning BugsMabry Mill Lightning Bugsimages of Mabry Mill at night with lightning bugs.

I was absolutely ecstatic when I pulled into the parking lot to Mabry Mill in preparation for some lightning bug photography.  As any south-eastern dweller knows, now is the time of year when the nights really come alive with blinking yellow lights.  I have made a couple of attempts in recent days to shoot fireflies in other areas, only to arrive and find out that the place I wanted to shoot didn't have a whole lot of lightning bugs in the area(and some of those places required a night bike ride to get to!)

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After getting over my initial excitement of knowing that a pre-visualisation would most likely come true, I grabbed my camera and headed in.  On my way to set up for the first shot, I was unnerved by a loud rumbling sound from over by the mill.  Since it was dark out I really couldn't see what was happening.  I quickly realized that the mill was periodically building up water, and then letting it all splash down while spinning really fast and loudly for a few moments(this happened continually throughout the night)

I started off using the main path as a leading line.  I started with a couple exposures for lightpainting, then let the camera shoot continuously for 20 minutes or so to capture lightning bugs.  I use the Nikkor 20mm 1.8G lens.  I have to say that it is perfect for this type of photography.  It's high light transmission allows even the faintest of lightning bugs to show up.

Mabry Mill Lightning BugsMabry Mill Lightning Bugsimages of Mabry Mill at night with lightning bugs. I then moved up towards the mill, crossed the fence, and set up the camera in a spot where the trees were hiding the sky.  I really wanted to minimize the stars for these photos.  I again started out with lightpainting the fence and mill, then letting the camera run.  During one of the exposures, a car drove by.  You can see the light from that car on the trees behind the mill.  I really like how it looked when added in, so I kept it!

Mabry Mill Lightning BugsMabry Mill Lightning Bugsimages of Mabry Mill at night with lightning bugs.

Again with similar set up, instead this time opting for more sky.  This time I had a BOATLOAD of lightning bugs flying by!  And since the wind was still, I was able to merge all of the exposures with stars and the treetops still look crisp.

Mabry Mill Lightning BugsMabry Mill Lightning Bugsimages of Mabry Mill at night with lightning bugs.

I moved up to the back of the mill to shoot the next exposure.  There weren't quite as many bugs cruising around, but it still made for a nice image I believe.  By now my head was starting to periodically 'bob' from fatigue.

Mabry Mill Lightning BugsMabry Mill Lightning Bugsimages of Mabry Mill at night with lightning bugs.

I was asleep for a lot of this last image's duration.  Fortunately the wind stayed still the whole time!  As I was finishing processing this image, I was a little perplexed as to why the reflections of the startrails had little 'breaks' in them.  From what I can gather, the regular splashing of large amounts of water into the pool caused the water to ripple temporarily, then soon return back to its smooth and reflective state.  There is one break in the strartrails in the sky, but that is caused by me removing two back-to-back images because of a passing car.  

Mabry Mill Lightning BugsMabry Mill Lightning Bugsimages of Mabry Mill at night with lightning bugs.

I gotta say I am super happy with how these turned out.  Night photography is a real sleep and time consumer, and getting good results makes it all worth it.  

Thanks for looking!


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