Do you remember catching lightning bugs in a jar? I do! Many a summer night found us neighborhood kids running around the yard, glass jars in hand, trying to capture those elusive creatures. The younger the child, the more running, jumping, and swiping was involved. The older ones had learned to move slowly and focus on a small area. One night I was particularly successful and found myself with a jar full of bugs by the time my mother hauled me inside for the night.I was so proud of my catch that I took the jar to the bathroom, set it on the side of the tub, and took my bath by firefly light! Needless to say, it was a dark bath, and I doubt I was very clean once it was over. But I still remember watching those bugs lighting so silently, and yet so beautifully inside the jar as I bathed.
Nowadays I'm trying to catch lightning bugs and stars with my camera. Thanks to a very helpful and easy-to-understand article in the Wonderful West Virginia magazine, I was able to take my first even remotely successful night sky photos tonight. I have tried before on many occasions, but this time a combination of reading that article, studying my camera's instruction manual, and a little advanced planning paid off. The secret setting that I've been missing is the ISO, the equivalent of what us over-50 folks know as film speed. A high ISO setting is necessary for capturing stars and lightning bugs, I've learned.
(Note: to see these photos better, click on them. That will give you a bigger image.)
Out of 50 or more shots, I ended up with two that are not bad. Ahh, the beauty of digital photography: being able to snap away without the cost of film, developing, and printing! If you look closely in the photo above, you can see the outline of the tree tops. Above them are stars. Below them, are lightning bugs. That cluster of lights in the lower center has a slightly yellow cast - that's the bugs! There were thousands of them lighting tonight. Wouldn't it be grand to capture that!
For this photo, I pointed the camera almost straight up. There's a very famous constellation right in the center. Can you see it?? I won't give it away, but I'm sure you've seen it before. Leave a comment below if you can tell what it is. That will let me know if my attempts are successful in more eyes than my own.
The night sky is a wondrous thing to behold. Problem is, us modern folk don't behold it very often. We sit inside our comfortable houses and watch a TV or computer screen instead of gazing into the heavens right outside our door. I hope the sky is dark at night where you live, and I hope you go outside and look up!