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Marine Bioluminescence on Putuo

Many marine organisms, for example dinoflagellates and algae, are capable of emitting visible light. Bioluminescence is a chemical reaction, often involving catalysts. Bioluminescent marine organisms produce cold light, mostly in the green and blue spectrum, wavelengths that transmit through seawater easily. With a little luck faint blue sparkles can be seen on warm summer evenings at the borders of shallow waves rushing to the shore, but also as a blue glow on the crests and in the foam of clashing waves. The sparkles disappear after a few seconds. Foot impressions in the sand can also light up with blue sparkles. Mechanical stress of the cells seems to be a trigger for the reaction.

Marine bioluminescence is not limited to tropical oceans, with a little luck it can be observed in Middle Europe and America as well. These images were taken on the Chinese island Putuo near Shanghai. As the phenomenon is rather faint, long exposure times and high ISO settings were necessary to capture it.

Marine bioluminescence on Putuo. Nikon D 90, 67 seconds at 2500 ISO, f/5.6. The long exposure makes the water surface look much smoother than it really was. The blue light occured in the foam and crests of the shallow waves.

Marine bioluminescence at the borders of shallow waves on Putuo. Nikon D 90, 8 seconds at 3200 ISO, f/3.5.

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