In the previous post, I listed a couple ways in which photographers digitally alter firefly photographs. How nefarious of them!

I admit, however, the post was a wee bit facetious. Photoshop can be used to alter the appearance of an image, of course, but cameras themselves have enough variables that a photographer can exercise tremendous creative control before an image file even hits the computer.

Consider the following images, both composite long exposures taken in ambient light with a 50mm f/1.4 lens fully open on a Canon 6D. I took them a couple nights ago, pointed at the same dusk scene at Homer Lake in central Illinois. The principal difference between the images was the focusing distance.

1. Focused near, about 10 feet from the camera:

2. Focused far, on the distant trees:

All I did was adjust the focus ring, and the captured firefly orbs changed utterly in character. While I used photoshop to composite the long exposures and to make some minor levels adjustments, the biggest creative decision was analog.

As an aside, a fast lens with a large aperture and a narrow depth of field is essential for creating firefly images with these large glowing orbs. A cell phone camera with its endless depth of field, or even with the kit lens that comes with an SLR, won't have the blur to deliver.