The dark side of light

  • Photographer
    Mathi Thumilan
  • Prize
    Honorable Mention
  • Date of Photograph
    21April 2023
  • Technical Info
    15sec/iso 12800/f4, full frame Nikon D750

Light pollution along with climate change and habitat loss affecting the survival of fireflies, the indicator species of healthy habitats. They play a major role in forest ecosystem by keeping the slugs and snails in check to ensure the fresh forest undergrowths available for the herbivores and hence the carnivore prey on them. In a nutshell conserving them is crucial to ensure the healthiness of the wildlife habitats. Captured this stacked long exposure images in the core forest area of Anamalai Tiger Reserve, India to portray the importance of conserving fireflies & wildlife friendly lights.


The picture, captured at the interior zone of Annamalai Tiger Reserve in Pollachi, India, between dusk till midnight of summer 2023, holds immense significance. Set against a backdrop of thick native vegetation and accompanied by the constant trumpet of elephants nearby and grazing gaurs surrounding. The place is the prime habitat of majestic tigers, leopards, and unpredictable bears. In this context, the image goes beyond being a simple dark frame with yellow and red highlights. The yellow dots are cool light emitted by fireflies through the process called bioluminescence. They do this to attract their mates and and synchronised display event happens only if the ambiance is naturally dark ,hence the shot was captured in the pitch dark. It is crucial to study this unique nocturnal species because of its uncomparable role as an indicator of the habitats healthiness. They spend their major part of life as larvae in the undergrowth of forest rich in humous, humid and moisture rich. They predate on slugs, snails, leaches and other soft body arthropods, by doing this they keep their diversity in optimal level to keep up the forest under growth which is vital for the herbivore population which is the prey for carnivores like tigers. Hence they do a major role in the ecosystem balance and food chain. Historically, they were known for their presence in abundance until recently the anthropogenic activities deter their existence by rapidly changing global climate scenarios, habitat destruction. The invention of artificial blue LEDs emerges as a major threat to this nocturnal species and their nocturnal habitats. The ever increasing light pollution erases the nature from the nocturnal habitats hence the decline in this species. We study the species in their habitats and create awareness on conserving darkness and wildlife friendly lighting practices. This image portray red spectrum in the midst of bioluminesing fireflies in their nocturnal habitat.

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