Red Tide in San Diego (8 photos)

The red tide is an annual phenomenon – an algal bloom colors the water brown (hence “red” tide) in late summer or early autumn. Unlike the red tide in Florida and other areas, the one at the San Diego coast isn’t toxic, or only very mildly toxic, and not a threat to public health. It’s just rather ugly during the daytime.

But it’s a different story at night – the algae are bioluminescent, and the breaking waves at the shoreline excite them enough for a chemical reaction to occur that makes them emit their faint blue glow. Even kicking the wet sand with one’s feet will cause the reaction. This year, the red tide was exceptionally strong – rumor has it that a raw sewage spill (ewwww) during a summer power outage furthered the growth of the algae.

It’s really beautiful, though – and pretty hard to capture with a camera, obviously. The glow is not very strong and only visible when it’s dark… and photography is about capturing light. :)

So that means really long exposure times with blurring of water and wave movement – including the blue glow. Alternatively, using a high sensitivity (ISO 25600, last two images in the gallery below) means that image noise will become very visible, causing a quite grainy look with a loss of acuity. The photos below are a mixture of more artistic (long exposure) photos, as well as more documentary images. I hope you like them.

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