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Let There Be Light! Bioluminescence Captured

Oh. My. GOSH! Excuse me while I peel myself off the floor. Thanks to a dear friend who gave me some tips, we can all give a big “HEEEELLLO!” to this stunning Jack-o-Lantern fungus doin’ its bioluminescent thang.

This photo was taken using a 5.5 minute exposure by a total first-timer. Thus I rigged up the darkest room in my house, the bathroom, with various nearby objects that might help prop up the subject, the camera, and my arm. (The remote for my camera wasn’t working so 5.5 minutes with my finger on the shutter-release button it was!)

Here’s what I learned:

  • Bathrooms make terrific darkrooms.

  • Tape and string can create effective light switch pullers.

  • Anti-acid tablets can prop a lens up to the perfect angle.

  • Plastic organizing baskets make excellent elbow rests.

  • White-walled shower stalls are wonderful backdrops.

  • Small mineral obelisks can prop up a subject at the perfect angle.

Can you tell I’m a professional?

Now for the science: There are approximately 80 species of known bioluminescent fungi, and although scientists ultimately don’t know why fungi glow, it has been hypothesized that perhaps the florescent color may attract bugs that spread the spores of a fungus after making contact with it. Sun is not a factor here; mushrooms are not like solar panels - they do not need to absorb sunlight to glow at night. Scientists have proven that a biochemical reaction is the cause of bioluminesce in fungi, not light absorption. More specifically: the phenomenon is known as a “chemiluminescent reaction” in which chemical energy in converted into light energy using oxygen as a catalyst. How COOL is nature!? I mean really.

Some say that on especially dark nights, if one were to walk through dark woodland, they may see glowing fungi now and again. Doesn’t that sound magical? It reminds me of a scene from Disney’s “Fantastia.”

Photo best viewed on an iPhone or a Macbook.


(Omphalotus olivascens)

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