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Photographer shares synchronous firefly experience with people on the internet

Nate Nelson has been a photographer for years now. He captures all different types of animals in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Lately, it is the synchronous fireflies that are keeping him busy.
Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 7:27 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Nate Nelson has been a photographer for years. He captures all different types of animals in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Lately, it is the synchronous fireflies that are keeping him busy.

“They all for seven seconds they all go completely black and then they all light back up. So it’s a very unique thing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.” said Nelson.

He uses a layering effect to show how the synchronous fireflies flash in person. According to the park system, it is a mating call.

“You have to be out there as much as you possibly can. So that’s the fun part is to get to see all of it, but in putting all the hours into it, so I probably, I probably been in the park 50 hours this week,” said Nelson.

The park system hosts a lottery each year for people who want access to the fireflies at Elkmont. It makes the experience a little more exclusive.

“So this year with the very limited lottery, it was very nice to go to Elkmont because nobody had a red flashlight on last year. Getting away from the people to get the good shot is pretty important,” said Nelson.

He shares his photos of the fireflies on social media. Hundreds of people have commented on the pictures to show support.

“It brightens people’s day up because they can’t get to the mountains and they can’t get out, so that’s encouraging. That makes putting all the time in worth it, I guess,” said Nelson.

He’s started taking people who didn’t win the lottery to a special spot “somewhere on 441”.

“It was kind of an accident, where I thought they were where they’ve been in the last five years. I went in there, there was none. And we parked on the road and I came back out to the car and the whole side of the road was lit up. So it was totally an accident, but it was a good accident,” said Nelson.

Getting to experience the synchronous fireflies is a bucket list item for some people. Nelson says he’s happy to give people a glimpse, even if it’s just through a computer screen.

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