The first photographs I had accepted for a photography exhibit were a pair of long-exposure frames of fireflies at MassAudubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.
Each summer since, I’ve faithfully headed out into the Meadows to try to improve on the effort. I’ve mostly found new ways to fail.
The other night I made a spontaneous trip back to the spot shown above to try again. It was a stop-after-band-practice venture, but I had a tripod and the lenses I wanted, so I figured I was good to go.
Unfortunately, I forgot that sometimes the most important gear for making a photograph is not a camera or a lens or a tripod:
1. It’s dark in the dark. I’ll usually wear a little headlamp for a project like this, to help with focusing and to keep my hands free if I’m switching lenses. Without it, more fumbling and near drops.
2. More importantly, if you’re shooting where there are fireflies, you’re probably shooting where there are mosquitoes. Lots of them. I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and no bug spray. After about 30 seconds, in a fit of panic, I put on a heavy hooded sweatshirt I had in my truck. So, I was sweaty and still getting eating alive and swallowing enough bugs to hit my recommended daily allowance of protein. (The ones that don’t aim for your ankles or eyes aim directly for your mouth.)
I could’ve dealt with #1, but #2 made the situation pretty untenable. I’ll forgive myself for the lack of planning because it was basically a spontaneous stop, but being so ill equipped meant that I only shot a handful of frames before I had to bail — all before I really found the right combination of composition and light I was looking for.
Here are three of the frames I shot before giving up: