Fireflies are a type of winged beetles which use bio-luminescence as a tool for mating. The males display a species-specific pattern of flashing (pun intended) while flying through the air looking for a mate. These are responded to by a single flash by the females, which are perched on leaves or branches. An interesting behavior is ‘synchronous flashing’, exhibited by one percent of the 2000 species of fireflies around the world. A large group of fireflies produces synchronous, repetitive, rhythmic flashes in unison, sometimes lighting up the whole forest at once. There have been a lot of hypotheses and postulates as to why it is so: mate selection, increase of mate recognition, or probably, warning competitors and predators.

The sweet memory of growing up amongst fireflies is etched on my mind and I wanted to translate that emotion into an image.

fireflies

The phenomenon of synchronous flashing takes place only for two weeks in a year. I traveled more than 100 kilometers almost every day during this period, and trekked uphill to the spot along with my camera gear. To complicate matters, this flashing peaks only for 30 to 45 minutes, and within that brief window, I waited for all other conditions to concur – a wait for the mist to clear, a wait for a time when moonlight is minimal lest the sky gets washed out and the contrast between the blinking and the background is lost, and obviously, prayers for a break from the pre-monsoon showers that had started. All this, while being disturbed by leeches, ticks, mosquitoes, frogs and snakes.

The effort was worth it, leaving me mesmerized to be standing amidst fireflies in the middle of the forest, surrounded 360 degrees by millions of these “stars” within reach, blinking in tandem, randomly, haphazardly and synchronously, all at the same time. This image is a humble representation of this vibrant and dynamic phenomenon.