Scorpions and UV light

Scorpions reflect UV light. It’s not completely clear why it happens: some hypotesize that they inherited this trait from their marine ancestors, and indeed they share UV reflectance with many organisms living underwater; other studies speculate that scorpions colonized dry lands when the UV light intensity in the hostile atmosphere was greater than today. Whatever the reason, this trait survived. Researchers looking for scorpions easily take advantage of it, and spot scorpions using UV lights in night surveys. Under a UV light, scorpions change, and glow in intense green and blue. When I took the photo below, I already started portraying scorpions under UV light. It’s an easy technique: all you need is to use a tripod and set the camera on long time exposures, and of course a UV light. The trick is just to use the light as a brush, painting gently and slowly above the scorpion’s body, to evenly light it up, being careful not to move too quickly, as scorpions can detect the feeblest air movement.

While the results are often great, they can be repetitive. With this photo I tried something different. Ironically, abstracting from the mere recording of the scientific fact is sometimes useful to better show it… So I added some movement to the scene. But movement is relative, it doesn’t mean the subject’s movement, not necessarily anyway. There are other examples in photography: zoom-effects, where changing the focal range during exposure results in a perceived movement of the subject, which seems to move towards the camera, but could be completely steady; similarly, panning shots try to freeze the subject over a moving background, which by the way is exactly the contrary of what happens in “real” world. So, I decided to move the tripod head, simple as that. However, when I showed the result to colleagues and friends, hardly none of them recognized the trick. Apparently it worked…