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Bioluminescence at South Arm

Bioluminescence at South Arm

Wednesday December 20, 2017

There has been a new sparkle in the Tasmanian seas the past couple of years as the bioluminescence, or Noctiluca scintillans, has moved into Tasmanian waters. Up until last week, I had never seen or photographed this for myself but on the night of December 15, a booking for a 1 on 1 photography session under the stars turned into a night with the bioluminescence!

bioluminescence tasmania south arm

The electric blue sparkle of the bioluminescent “Noctiluca” algae off South Arm. December 15, 2017

As the night darkened it became apparent that the waves were glowing as they crashed. To begin with I thought it might just be a trick of the twilight light, but then an electric blue started appearing in camera and we settled in for a couple of hours shooting this rather remarkable scene.

bioluminescence tasmania south arm

The blue was only visible to the eye in “intense” moments, such as these. At other times it was more of a whitish glow. A lot like the aurora really, in fact during the night we discussed it as being just like an aurora in the ocean!

bioluminescence tasmania south arm

Apart from the bioluminescence, the stars were looking rather amazing this particular evening. The only thing missing was a visit from the aurora!

To the eye there was a clear glow in the water as the waves crashed, but every now and then the light became bright strong and shone in a blue light, just as captured in these photos.

bioluminescence tasmania south arm

The sparkling could be seen all the way along the beach as the waves rolled in.

bioluminescence tasmania south arm

The sparkling could be seen all the way along the beach as the waves rolled in.

The camera settings used were basically very similar to the aurora, ie high ISO, wide open aperture and a long shutter speed. I shot many more but these captured the most brilliant light. You can find more info on this phenomenon here (Tasmanian Geographic) and here (The Australian, which also covers what it means for the marine environment that this algae is now here).

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