With over 15 years of experience with photography in the Southern countries in Africa I’m always on the lookout for new ways to extend my portfolio. After the usual suspects as high- and low key photography, panning techniques and multiple exposures, it was bioluminescence that caught my attention. Scorpions glow in a green electric light when illuminated with an ultraviolet light source. Of course, I wanted to photograph this feature during some night-time explorations of the undergrowth around our campsites.
My first tries were made with an APS-C sized body and a 200mm macro lens attached. I used a cheap Chinese UV-torch with hard edges. In order to keep my noise levels down, all I could achieve were long exposures of 20 to 20 seconds, more of then not unsharp and with blown highlights because of the harsh edges in the torch.
The year following my first attempts were slightly better. Using a 15mm wide-angle macro lens gave me the wider look I was looking for and the upgraded UV-torch (a Nitecore) had much better and more diffuse lighting capabilities. But still I was struggling with the ISO capabilities….
In 2015 I had the chance to bring a Pentax 645Z camera with me. It’s a medium format camera with outstanding dynamic range and more important, I don’t hesitate a moment to crack up the ISO as the RAW files clean up very nicely.
On the technical side I was all set, time to find me some scorpions! And that’s a task that’s not too easy. My preferred spots were trees with a crusty bark, these often have hiding spots in them and their texture look good in the final image. Finding a scorpion that was peeking out of his hiding place proved more difficult though!
One night everything came together, I found a full-grown scorpion about 3 meters above the ground in a perfect setting. We were sleeping in a lodge in the greater Kruger area of South Africa and I decided to borrow a table with a chair. The chair was placed on the table and I mounted this wobbly structure with my camera and tripod. No need to explain that long exposures were out of the question…
So the ISO was dialed up, aperture was closed to get most of the bark sharp as well and I illuminated the scorpion with the UV light. Finally the image that I had in my mind came to live!
Pentax 645Z, 120mm (94mm FF equivalent), F14, 1s, ISO 6400