Night Time Blues

There are so many natural wonders here in Tasmania. Not just our amazing fauna and flora. The landscapes, the waterways, the clear night sky. The Aurora Australis. Sometimes something else grabs your attention.
Bioluminescence. One of the most amazing introduced pests into our sea.

The bright blue glow is caused by billions of single-celled algae or plant plankton called Noctiluca scintillans, (latin for sparkling night light) or sea sparkles. It is more common in the warmer months but can occur at any time. These micro creatures have a built in biological clock and will only sparkle in complete darkness. Even if you put them in a jar, they will not flash in daytime, they will only flash in complete darkness.

This was my first time photographing bioluminesence.

For a first experience it was incredible and as my friends who had photographed it before said it was such phenomenal amount.
I drove here and as I turned towards the cove the whole area was blue. I could see it so well. Word had not got out at this point so the couple of people who had sent me a message (Huge thanks to them) meant we were able to get some wonderful shots, before it was made public as others spread the word. This was truly an exceptional occurrence to have so many Noctiluca scintillans the lights across the bay it was still visible to my naked eyes(without a camera).

The poles of the boat ramp and the gentle breeze as the water lapped at the poles and edge of the ramp caused the flashes of the algae.

You could have photographed this bioluminescence with a mobile phone this particular night. It really was such a fantastic experience. I became hooked in keeping my eye out for this wonderful natural show.

The glow in the clouds is from suburbs about Hobart. Another photographer in the distance.

Generally it is not such a volume of bioluminescence and you will often see it on the wave tips or if it is gently moving about off shore a bit. If it is too windy it may break up the mass of the Noctiluca scintillans
I have had fun since this first night running in the sand near or in the water and seeing these algae flash blue in my foot steps, or throwing water from a bottle, to spray and splash, or I am now thinking one of those big water pistols.

A rising emu, (the Milky Way) and bioluminescence same night. The head lights of a vehicle are lighting up the trees and cliff.

If you are on the hunt be it for bioluminescence, Aurora, or the night sky. Please be considerate of others who are also taking photographs.

This photographer, had a bright light and torch, as can be seen, and had positioned herself right in front of me. I had been there for a while and it was easier for me to move than create an issue.

As more and more people came as the word spread, excitement was tangible. I do understand the desire for a photo, and I look at this shot and see an interesting photograph of someone else enjoying a natural occasion that she may never have an opportunity to experience again.

The fact so many people are interested is great, if they are considerate and in built up areas quiet sadly this has not always been the situation I have had when taking some photos in more known locations. I now do not share exact locations of where I shoot. As for me part of the experience is the peace and quiet.

Living in the south of the state and having so many known locations close to Hobart is wonderful for tourists and those who are studying or working from overseas.

Are they dangerous to humans? Do not ingest Noctiluca or put it on the face, eyes, or mouth. Brief handling such as swishing water with the hands or dancing in the light generally cause no adverse effects. Still water in canals and lagoons near urban regions must be treated with caution.

Does it hurt them when we splash around? Splashing around doesn’t hurt them. The tide stranding them on the beach – or us stomping on them – will dry them or crush them; these actions are generally fatal to them. However, they are clonal, so “fatal” is not as terminal as it sounds.

Can I take them home? Yes! In a widemouth jar in a cool area (not the refrigerator or freezer), they will live several days or more. Open the jar during the day, and replace the lid before swirling. They will not luminesce during daytime, but if the jar is tapped or gently swirled at night in a dark room, they will put on quite a sparkling show!

Because they are an introduced pest, after you are finished with them, ecologically appropriate disposal methods include down the drain or poured down the driveway.
This information provided from The definitive guide -How to find and photograph sea sparkle bioluminescence . Text by Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, Fiona Walsh and Matt Holz.

These are just some of the wonders that glow at night here in Tasmanian, apart from Aurora and the clear dark night skies. I will post more about my experiences.
I have been fortunate and experienced many more nights taking photos of the Noctiluca scintillans. I do have to say that this my first experience was perhaps the largest mass I have been fortunate to see so far.

Many places around the world have these algae.

I am thankful for all the amazing naturally occurring things that I am surrounded by here in my southern Tasmanian home. I am thankful to be able to look for them, and spend time sitting in the wonder, and enjoyment of the experience. I am thankful that I am so privileged to have time to do this. I am thankful to have been able to share with you my joy and photographs.

Blessings to you all Tazzie


I enjoy taking photographs of the night sky. I have to apologise that these photographs have been changed from my 35mmdigital RAW format to JPEG and have lost some of the definition in the process. I am very fortunate to live in the far south of Tasmania and when the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights as they are also known. The Aurora has been very quiet for quite some time. So I thought I would share with you some photographs I have taken back on the 1st of May 2019 , 01/05/2019. This was a wonderful night and the Lady Aurora was resplendent in her colours.

What causes an Aurora, be it the Aurora Australis/Southern Lights or the Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights?
Charged particles are the “ammunition” of an aurora. The short answer to how the aurora happens is that energetic electrically charged particles (mostly electrons) accelerate along the magnetic field lines into the upper atmosphere, where they collide with gas atoms, causing the atoms to give off light.Jun 19, › learning_studio › auroras › happen
My understanding is the different gases that are in the atmosphere give off different colors when gas atoms collide with these electrically charged particles.

The lights are seen around the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. Auroras that occur in the northern hemisphere are called ‘Aurora Borealis‘ or ‘northern lights’ and auroras that occur in the southern hempishere are called ‘Aurora Australis‘ or ‘southern lights’.

Aurora Australis Huon Valley Tasmania.

The above photograph is interesting as it shows a formation in the Aurora known as a picket fence. The orange light to the right of the screen is a column.

Aurora Australis Huon Valley Tasmania

Here You can see the beams and when I am taking these shots and review them you can see the beams swirling as the move across the sky.

More beams and the beautiful colour, with swirling beams and bright colours.

Many people get quite confused as here in Tasmania due to not being as far south it is very unusual to actually be able to see the Aurora Australis with only your eyes. When you are fortunate to see it with only your eyes it is usually more like grey to greenish movements or columns in the sky. If you are looking south and you see a glow like there is town and you know there is no town it could very well be an Aurora.

There are many aurora forecasting apps out there.
The photographs you see are taken on long exposures usually with Digital 35mm cameras. Though some mobile phones can take photographs of the Aurora.
You also really need to have a tripod or some sort of support, to keep the camera from moving, no matter how you believe you can hold your camera steady for 30+ seconds you can’t.

Here in Tasmania is not the only location in Australia you may be fortunate to see an Aurora Australis. Last Year there was an Aurora and we were clouded in almost all over Tasmania. Yet people in Western Australia, South Australia, and Victoria were getting a wonderful display.

People often ask me if they can come with me. I have to explain that sometimes when an aurora is forecast, it might be hours that I am out there and it might not be quite as good as predicted. Or I might just get out there because I woke at 2am to go to the toilet and noticed a brighter look in the sky to my south. I got in my car and just went to a friends paddock and set up. Sure enough the lady was visiting. She only stayed for a brief time. I was home in bed again by 3:30am

I may just go and it might only last for half an hour. Or as the last time I was out I was out from 10pm until sunrise. Sometimes I have driven to one of my spots only to find I have missed the show. I have sat hoping that she may start up again, but no.

It is why we call it Aurora hunting. We are fortunate that we have good night skies. I have seen wonderful photographs taken from the north of the state the midlands, cradle mountain, Bicheno, Swansea,Frecyinate , Port Arthur area. Of course New Zealand also has great views for Aurora Australis as to the Antartic.

Here in Tasmania in summertime when we do have Aurora because of daylight saving time it is very late when it gets dark. After 8;30pm at present, but in December it is almost 10pm before it is dark.
In winter the cold is a problem and fog, sea mist, and again clouds. But it is all what makes the hunt so fantastic when You do get great shots.

Again I am so fortunate, to have this natural wonder occurring in my backyard.

I am so thankful to have experienced this wonderful display numerous times, and hope that some time in the near future the sun will again be having flares that will instigate the possibility of more opportunities for me and others to photograph the Lady Aurora.

blessing to you all Tazzie

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