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Light Painting with Plankton Makes Ethereal Portraits

Glowing plankton in the sea of Holbox Island, Mexico provide a fluttering focal point for an experimental midnight portrait series.

Glowing plankton in the sea of Holbox Island, Mexico provide a fluttering focal point for an experimental midnight portrait series by photographer Eric Paré. Submerging his tripod in shallow Caribbean waters, the photographer shot long-exposure portraits with friends in complete darkness to capture the millions of tiny, bioluminescent plankton that glow to ward off predators. 

Paré says, "The plankton emits really low light which is really cool to look at, but very hard to capture on camera. We had to run like crazy in the ocean to create these trails of light.” The portraits are blury and stargazed, punctuating the wondrous coexistence of humans and minute organisms not often experienced firsthand. "The bioluminescence itself [is] an incredible thing to experience in your hands and around yourself,” Paré says.

In an earlier interview with PetaPixel, Paré said he had his subjects pose motionless in the ocean during 30-second exposures at a “very high ISO.” In Mexico, the “light on the subjects comes from the stars and the houses far away from us,” he explains. Bioluminescent bays themselves are a rarity, but also exist off the coasts of Sweden, Puerto Rico, the Maldives and San Diego. 

These surreal night scenes are a sharp departure from Paré’s signature photography. In the past, he's captured the sharp, choreographed movements of the dancer Kim Henry in deserted places around the globe for their Little Circle dance film collaboration, and created 360-degree bullet-time stop-motion light-paintings. Check out some of his new plankton-lit portraits below:

Team bioluminescence includes Kim Henry, Millie Caron, James Trotta-Bono, Sophia Moelk, Cedric Taillon, Guillermo Castellanos and the IPAF Festival.  Click here to learn more about Eric Paré.

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