5 Photography Tips To Capture The Glow During Bioluminescence Kayaking

You are kayaking in Florida at night, and suddenly the water starts glowing in bright blues and greens. This high-tech light show is known as “bioluminescence” and it’s created by tiny sea creatures. Millions of comb jellies and dinoflagellates in the water make it feel like you are paddling among stars.

But as you reach for your camera and get ready to take some Insta-worthy shots, you realize how tricky it is. The dark, the moving water, and the quick glow make it hard to get a clear shot. Many end up with blurry or just too-dark photos because photographing bioluminescence is a bit like trying to snap a picture of a shooting star.

The good news is, with the right techniques, it’s absolutely doable. Having spent decades kayaking on these waters at night and shooting the phenomenon, our tour guides have mastered the art of taking perfect pictures every single time. Here are some of their top tips:

Keep it Steady

When you are on water, even the slightest movement can cause a ripple. Add to that the natural motion of paddling, and you’ve got a recipe for shaky, blurred photos. If you want to take super-sharp and clear pics, consider using a tripod; it will act as an anchor so your camera remains steady amidst all that movement.

For kayaking, you will want something compact and water-resistant. Look for tripods specifically designed for rugged and fluid terrains. These are often made with materials that resist corrosion and have flexible legs that can grip onto the kayak’s surface.

Then attach your tripod towards the center of your kayak for optimal balance. Some tripods come with adjustable clamps or suction mounts so they are quite easy to secure. It should be fastened tightly to prevent any wobbling or worse, toppling over.

Use the Power of Aperture

In photography, aperture is all about how much light you let in. For bioluminescence, you want to let in a lot. Select a wide aperture setting, such as f/1.8 or f/2.8. It’s like opening your window wide on a sunny day – the more light, the clearer the picture.

Slow Shutter, More Light

A slower shutter speed means your camera’s “eye” is open longer, which means it will catch more of that elusive glow. But a word of caution: the slower the shutter, the more chance of blur. This is why a tripod is so important as it keeps things steady while your camera does its job.

When you are on a moving kayak, leaving the shutter open longer can make your photos blurry because of the motion. So, try to find a balance: a shutter speed that is slow enough to catch the glow but fast enough to avoid too much blur from the kayak’s movement. This might mean a few trial-and-error shots to get it just right.

If your camera has a “night mode” or “low light mode,” start there. These settings often adjust the shutter speed for you.

ISO: The Delicate Balance

Think of ISO as your camera’s volume control for light. A low ISO number (e.g., 100 or 200) means low sensitivity to light and is ideal for bright conditions. A high ISO (e.g., 1600, 3200) means high sensitivity, perfect for darker situations.

On a bioluminescence kayaking trip, you are dealing with pretty dim conditions. To capture the faint glow, you might need to increase your camera’s light sensitivity – this means turning up the ISO. But too much ISO make the pictures look grainy so be careful.

The perfect ISO setting is where the bioluminescence is bright and visible, but the photo remains clear. This might mean starting at a mid-range ISO, like 800, and adjusting based on how the photos look.

Turn on the Manual Focus

Autofocus is an amazing tool in many scenarios, but the subtle nature of bioluminescence can throw it off. It will be trying to lock onto a clear subject, but the shifting glow of bioluminescence will result in out-of-focus shots. Switch to manual focus. Instead of relying on the camera to figure things out, you take control. By adjusting the focus ring yourself, you can capture the shimmering patterns of light in the water with total clarity.

Experience Florida’s Best with Florida-Adventurer: Book Your Tour Today

If you have ever wanted to kayak through waters that glow like a starry night, now is the time to do it. August and September are prime months to see the waters light up in Florida’s Space Coast, and our tours at Florida-Adventurer are tailored for this experience.

We take you to the heart of spots like the Indian River Lagoon and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, where the bioluminescence is brightest. With us, you will learn about the amazing creatures behind this phenomenon, from dinoflagellates and comb jellyfish to fireflies and snapping shrimp.

We offer group rafting tours that fit up to 10 people, so you can bring the whole family and set up all your camera equipment with room to spare. No splitting up; everyone gets to enjoy the magic together. Each tour is a full 90 minutes, launched from the convenient Beacon 42 Boat Ramp in Titusville. And at $60 per person, with all gear included, it’s a deal hard to pass up.

So, why wait? Spaces are limited, and you don’t want to miss out. Book with us today and make this summer one for the books!