The Synchronous Firefly: Great Smoky Mountains National Park Photography
Near Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can find the stone remains (mostly chimneys) of vacation cabins that have been dismantled.
Every year, usually in the beginning of June, fireflies concentrated near this campground have their mating season. As part of their mating display, the males and females flash in synchrony to attract and identify each other.
So what does it look like? Before that Sunday afternoon, I had no idea.
After spending two days under the white basswood trees of the parks, I was in love.
Picture sitting in the middle of the forest, and every tree and shrub has Christmas lights strung across them. The excited din of the few hundred people lucky enough to win the lottery turns into quiet awe. All that's left is the twinkling fireflies flashing in unison. The gentle babble of rushing water. And the peaceful chirping of thousands of other woodland insects.
Like most of my photography visits to these ephemeral events, I try to experience them with my full body first. Looking with my eyes instead of the viewfinder. Being present with how the earth feels on my feet. Hearing the rustling and chirping and silence of the forest. Smelling and tasting the fresh air.
My mission for taking pictures of the Great Smoky Mountains was to find a nice composition, and just try to keep the shutter firing. There are many ruins and follies in the Elkmont area, and none prettier than this old bridge crossing a stream. Situated under the trees in the heart of the firefly habitat, it was perfect. The synchronous fireflies floated and flashed in a full 360 degrees around us, mostly unobstructed by undergrowth.
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