Firefly photographs are commonly shot using long exposures from a tripod. The proper exposure depends on the ratio of the fireflies’ luminosity to that of the background. That ratio is constant if we assume (as is usually the case) that the background lighting doesn’t change much over the course of a session. We usually would like a rather long exposure because we want to see lots of fireflies in the final image.
The problem is that fireflies flash briefly, whereas the background illumination persists for the duration of the exposure. Over the course of a long exposure the background brightness builds up to the the point where it’s as bright as the fireflies, and the image looks terrible.
This beautiful photograph is titled “Last Dance of the Fairies.” It was shot by Japanese photographer Yume Cyan in a forested area near Nagoya City, Japan.
Digital Photo Blog shot these beautiful long exposure photographs of gold fireflies in Japan during the June to July rainy season, when they come together to mate.
Photographer Mike Rosinski created this amazing image showing light trails from both fireflies and stars by stacking over 370 photos shot over 2 hours from his backyard in Hartland, Michigan. He used a Canon T1i and 15-85mm lens at 15mm with 20 second exposures. The stacking was done with StarStaX, a free program geared towards star trail photography. You can find more about Mike Rosinski’s work (prints, licensing fees, etc) by contacting him here.
Image credit: Photograph by Mike Rosinski and used with permission