Photographing the Common Eastern (USA) Firefly - 2006 (Photinus pyralis)

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Fireflies are the star of the insect world. Here in the Midwest (southern Indiana), they are familiar and common. Kids are fascinated by them. Watching them in the early evening flash in the fields and woods, it seems like they are part of the best days of summer.

With a modest digital camera, you can take great pictures of them in mid-flight. You need a camera capable of all manual controls. These pictures were taken with a Canon A-series retailing today for less than $200 (in 2007). Its almost as if the camera engineers designed the camera with this application in mind. The camera is just capable of taking these pictures.

Your settings may vary of course. Part of the fun is looking at the pictures on the computer to see what you have, then going back out and making adjustments. It's a great way to learn how to use your camera to take close-up pictures.

Camera Keys:
Manual focus, camera flash and settings designed not to overexpose the picture.

These pictures were taken with a fixed focus at 2 inches. You might want to start with 3 inches, it will give you a better chance of success, and you can change to 2 inches as you get the idea. The camera flash is going to freeze the motion. Set the shutter speed to the fastest flash sync. For me that was 1/500 second. Set the aperture to the largest number, f8.0 for me, to get the greatest depth of field. Usually with cheaper cameras at macro distances, the camera flash will overwhelm the subject. The Canon has a simple flash strength in manual mode. Set it to the weakest flash. Similarly, set the ISO number (sensitivity of the "film") to the smallest number (that was 50 for me). The other setting you need to consider is white balance, but it is not so critical. I found slightly better colors by using the "cloudy" setting.

Picture Technique Keys:
Point the camera with your hands. Don't look thru the viewfinder.

Stalking the Wild Firefly:

It's summer vacation, you can afford to waste time and have some fun.