As photographers Trevor Williams and Jonathan Galione walked through the coastal city of Okayama, Japan, they noticed a beautifully eerie blue glow illuminating the water. Bewildered and amazed, they set up their equipment and captured the phenomenon.
The blue light is emitted by a bioluminescent shrimp species called Vargula Hilgendorfii, known to the locals as umihotaru – umi, meaning “sea,” and hotaru, the word for “firefly.” Umihotaru is one of three bioluminescent species of shrimp in Japan.
The “sea fireflies’” is created by a chemical secretion, the result of an enzymatic reaction with their bodies. According to the Animals Life Resource, the species usually measure 3 millimeters in length, and feature a beak-like protrusion on the front of their smooth, transparent shells. They exist in shallow waters with sandy bottoms along the Pacific coast of central Japan, where they feed on dead fish and worms. Beyond this, the species has not been thoroughly studied.
Williams and Galione decided to capture some of these creatures, using their bright-blue bioluminescence to create striking photographs.
“We bought several big glass jars from a hardware store, the kind Japanese people often use for making sake at home,” recalls Galione. “We drilled a few holes in the lid before covering them with heavy duty tape and rope. Next, we added bait in the form of raw bacon, putting a few pieces into each jar and securing the lids before setting them into the water.”
After several hours, they recovered the jars, now filled with tiny glowing shrimp. They poured the water over boulders on the beach, and captured the movement of the shrimp as they streamed down the rocks. They called this project The Weeping Stones, which can be seen here (and I strongly suggest you check it out, because it’s beautiful).