Blue waves from bioluminescent algae crash into Flat Rock at Torrey Pines State Beach.
I've spent many a night at this spot, just watching the waves and the stars. I love the way the water crashes around the rocks and washes up against the shoreline. I love the solitude and darkness as the cliffs block the light from the city. This night however was special because I was here during the midst of a bioluminescent algae bloom (May, 2020), the strongest I've ever witnessed.
Whenever the waves break or crash against the rocks, the algae emits a flash of electric blue light. It's incredible to see this at night as the waves literally glow blue in the dark. It is the California equivalent of the northern lights, except that it's much rarer. Often many years will pass between blooms, although the frequency is thought to be increasing.
The specific algae causing the bioluminescence is a phytoplankton called Lingulodinium polyedra. They collect on the surface and during the day will make the water look dirty with reddish-brown tint (which is the reason why this is also called a red tide). At night, the algae glows whenever the water is disturbed. This is thought to be a defense mechanism to help avoid predators.
This photograph is available in a limited edition of 100 fine art prints. Each print is made to order with the highest quality pigment inks and fine art papers. They are signed and come with a certificate of authenticity. Small prints under 15" on the long dimension are excluded from the edition. If you have any questions about this specific image or my prints in general, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Sign up to receive email updates about Stephen's artwork, show schedule, and promotional offers.