Learn How to Catch and Take Stunning Photos of Brightly Glowing Bioluminescent "Sea Fireflies"

If you’ve never heard of “sea fireflies” until today, join the club. These tiny bioluminescent shrimp live off the Southern coast of Japan where they are referred to as “umihotaru” and make amazing photo subjects.

Only 3mm in length, these critters are found in sand and shallow water, coming out at night to feed very close to shore. They glow extremely bright, for up to 30 minutes at a time, and were actually used by soldiers during WWII to create dim night-lights.


A photo posted by Tdub Photo (@tdub_photo) on

Trevor Williams and Jonathan Galione of Tdub Photo, based in Western Japan, made the stunning images you see here and offer some tips on emulating their work. They use glass jars, with a few holes drilled in the metal lid, a rope handle, and some bacon pieces inside for bait. They cover the jars with duct tape to prevent glass shards from spreading in case the jars break on the rocks.


A photo posted by Tdub Photo (@tdub_photo) on

Once you deploy your “traps” wait about an hour before hauling in your catch. Then simply spread the shrimp out on the sand and rocks and begin shooting—experimenting with various exposure settings until you get the effect you like.

If your catch begins to fade before you’re done shooting, all you have to do is pour water on the shrimp to get them to glow again at full intensity; or capture a new batch and begin anew.  We’re not sure if sea fireflies are edible, but bacon and shrimp doesn’t sound too bad.

If you’re not planning on visiting Japan anytime soon, check out our recent piece on light painting with real fireflies in the Southern U.S. Meanwhile you can see more from Tdub Photo on Facebook and on their Instagram page.