These Photos of Fireflies in Japan are Magical

In the summer, around June and July, firefly season kicks into full swing in Japan and watching (and photographing) the natural light show is a popular pastime. Photographer Daniel Kordan shot a beautiful set of photos that captures the magic of hotaru season.

In the summer of 2019, Kodan was shooting in a remote location on Kyushu, the third-largest island of Japan’s five main islands, and he was treated to quite an experience.

“They call them hime hotaru in Japan – synchronous fireflies,” Kordan tells PetaPixel. “At this remote location of Kyushu island, we saw a really crazy amount of them.

“At a certain moment when your eyes get used to dark ambient light you see the whole forest is blinking synchronously like a Christmas tree! It’s like a big wave of stars going up and down in the deep bamboo forest.”

If you’d like to shoot your own firefly photos, make sure you do your research, as the windows for best viewings may be quite narrow in certain places.

“Watching fireflies is a very exciting thing,” Kordan says. “You arrive long before the night to find spot, composition, talk to local photographers to understand best conditions (peak of fireflies may be just a few days at certain locations).

“Then bring your chair and wait. Wait for a miracle, and when the first firefly goes up – you are happy like a kid.”

“Fireflies are very sensitive,” Kordan says. “They need clean water nearby, warm humid air (but not rain), and no lights.”

Note that what you see in these photos is not what your eyes actually see at the location, though the sight is still dazzling and beautiful. To best capture starry fields of fireflies, you’ll need to turn to a technique known as stacking, or automatically combining details from a large number of images into a single “stacked” photo.

“To photograph them you need to make a stack of hundreds of images because on exposures more than 1 minute you’ll get lots of hot pixels,” Kordan says. “But not a single photo can show how beautiful it is — a shimmering and blinking forest full of little stars.”

You can find more of Kordan’s work on his website, Facebook, 500px, and Instagram.

Image credits: Photographs by Daniel Kordan and used with permission

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