Glowing waves caused by bioluminescent algae break against Flat rock in Torrey Pines State Beach

Luminescence | La Jolla

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.

About the Prints

Edition of 50. Available in the following sizes:

24 x 36 inches

30 x 45 inches

40 x 60 inches

Medium: Archival pigment print with acrylic facemount


This is a pigment print where the front has been directly mounted with an adhesive to a sheet of ultra clear, scratch resistant, and non-reflective acrylic glass. This process is known as face mounting. The acrylic captures light internally resulting in a display with incredible visual depth and vibrancy. With proper lighting, the acrylic print will appear to be back illuminated with the light emanating from the image itself. The print comes ready to hang with a hidden mount on the back that floats the print off the wall.

Please allow 4-5 weeks for production and delivery of your print. The prices include U.S. shipping, please contact me for international rates.

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