Mr. Davison, a product developer for a technology company, has a method for finding bioluminescence. First he studies satellite imagery to identify algal blooms off the coast. Then he combs through other indicators, such as wind direction and tidal patterns, to predict where waters may glow.
He’s an exception, though. Other photographers mainly rely on a mix of luck, intuition and the occasional tip from neighbors who spot sparks of blue during walks on the beach.
“If I’m perfectly honest, probably eight out of 10 times I capture it is either by chance or just a gut feeling that it might be around,” said Grant Birley, 48, who works in the orthopedics industry and often stops to photograph bioluminescence during his two-hour commute along the coastline of New Zealand’s North Island. “It’s not an educated guess at all.”
One source of intelligence is a private Facebook group that was created two years ago for people in the Auckland area to discuss sightings of bioluminescence. It now has more than 7,000 members and welcomes about 2,000 new ones each summer, said Stacey Ferreira, one of the group’s administrators.
Ms. Ferreira said she created the group so that others could “tick the beautiful phenomenon off their bucket lists,” as she did in 2020. “It’s been great!” she wrote in an email. “People from every background have joined — talented photography enthusiasts, bioluminescence researchers, scientists, families and everyone in between.”
Shots After Dark
For “bio chasers,” finding the glow is just the start of the process of capturing a memorable image. After arriving at a beach, they typically set up tripods in the surf and spend hours shooting, sometimes in near-total darkness, as blue patches flicker intermittently across the shore. Sometimes the flicker dies off after a few minutes, and they head home empty-handed.