Lights Fantastic

Sriram Murali's Image

Sriram Murali (India) showcases a night sky and a forest illuminated with fireflies.

Sriram combined 50 individual 19-second exposures to show the firefly flashes produced over 16 minutes in the forests of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve near his hometown. He watched as pinpoint flashes appeared in the treetops increasing in number as they spread down along the branches until something remarkable happened. Synchronising, they pulsated through the canopy like a wave - the pattern punctuated with sequences of abrupt on-off bursts in unison.

Stefano Unterthiner, Wildlife and Conservation Photographer and Competition Judge remarked, ‘there’s all the majesty and magic of the tropical forest in this photograph. Thousands of fireflies light up the trees. It’s worth noting the great skill of the photographer, who managed with technique and skill to document a natural phenomenon of great beauty.’

Fireflies, which are in fact beetles, are famous for attracting mates using bioluminescence. Darkness is a necessary ingredient in the success of this process. Light pollution affects many nocturnal creatures, but fireflies are especially susceptible.

Behind the lens

Sriram Murali

Sriram Murali


Sriram has a passion for astronomy and life in the dark. He’s a natural history filmmaker, IUCN Species Survival Commission Firefly Specialist Group Member, Dark Sky Advocate and co-founder of Wild and Dark Earth - a non-profit initiative to conserve nocturnal habitats in India. At Wild and Dark Earth, Sriram’s currently studying the life cycle, ecology and species diversity of fireflies in India and researching the impact of artificial lighting on nocturnal wildlife.

Image details

  • Canon 6D
  • 24mm f1.4 lens
  • 19 sec at f2  •   multiple exposures  •   ISO 6400  •   cable release  •   Manfrotto tripod
  • Anamalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu, India
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