Returning to the Bicol Region of the Philippines, Jürgen set out to revisit the magical sight he had witnessed many years before. He had spotted thousands of fireflies – winged beetles with light-emitting organs in their abdomens – lighting up almond trees as they sought out potential mates. At the time the riverbank was too muddy to set up a tripod for the long exposure needed, and it was impossible to photograph the spectacle from his boat. On his return, locals told Jürgen about another almond tree where fireflies gathered, this one along a much smaller river. Organising a boat, he set out after nightfall and found the fireflies swarming. This time there was solid ground beside the tree where he could just about stand and set up his tripod without falling into the river. The spectacle was electrifying. Fireflies were flashing in their thousands, some in synchrony, others appearing to respond to these blinks with their own. Finally, Jürgen was able to make the picture he had kept in his mind’s eye for such a long time, thankful that the Moon was at the right height to silhouette the tree.
Nikon D3 + 24–85mm f2.8–4 lens at 85mm; 149 sec at f4.5; ISO 800; Manfrotto tripod + Arca Swiss ballhead.
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Jürgen Freund, Germany/ Australia
Jürgen specialises in nature photography in Australasia and beyond. The challenge of photographing marine wildlife lured him from work as an industrial photographer and he became a full-time nature photographer in 1995. His acclaimed pictures have been published in numerous international magazines and won many awards. Between assignments, he teaches nature photography.