New Zealand’s glowworms are a stunning sight. Buried inside caves, their soft illumination sends many photographers inside for the perfect shot. But Jordan Poste took a unique approach, capturing the bugs’ breathtaking twinkle with a 60-hour time-lapse video.

Glowworms are actually the larval form of a gnat, commonly found by the thousands in natural caves and mines throughout New Zealand. Adult gnats lay eggs in the damp walls and ceiling; later the eggs hatch to spin silk nests and hanging threads. The larvae lure unsuspecting bugs like mayflies and moths into these tendrils with their unearthly glow, where they can happily feast on their prey. While many people have documented the phenomenon through photography, Poste wanted to make the viewer feel like they were actually there. “The whole vision for the video was to make it represent the experience of walking through a glowworm cave,” he says.

Poste first learned about the glowworms when he and his fiancée moved to New Zealand from Canada in 2013. Both work as engineers, but spend their free time and weekends adventuring around the country—climbing, diving, surfing, and bungee jumping. Poste documents it all with photography and video, sharing their exploits on YouTube and elsewhere. And capturing thousands of twinkling glowworms in a dark cave sounded like an excellent challenge.

He finally got his chance last summer, shooting at three different locations over a period of three months—the Waipu and Abbey Caves in Whangaeri, and the Ruakokoputuna in Martinborough. Posted worked mostly at night so tourists wouldn’t walk through his shots and hiked about 650 feet inside each cave before setting up his gear. To create the illusion of wandering through the caves, Poste mounted his Canon 5D Mark III on an Emotimo TB3 automated slider, programmed to slowly move the camera forward over a designated period of time. He set the camera to shoot every 35 seconds, taping cheap bike lights to the cave walls whenever he needed an extra bit of illumination. Each sequence took two and a half hours to shoot.

Poste setting up his camera on an Emotive TB3 for a time-lapse.Poste setting up his camera on an Emotive TB3 for a time-lapse. Jordan Poste

Waiting was the hardest part. Any extra light would affect his footage, so Poste had to sit in total darkness while the camera moved. He counted shutter clicks, listened to the sounds of the cave, and kept an inflatable mattress handy in case he wanted to take a nap.

After 60 hours of shooting, Poste took most of his 3,000 frames and edited them together for the finished time-lapse. The result is breathtaking, the lights of the larvae dancing and twinkling in the darkness. It’s evokes the exact feeling Poste had while he was there. “It’s similar to lying down outside under the stars and just looking at the sky and emptying your mind,” he says. “It’s extra special, though, because you realize they aren’t stars, but worms with glowing bums.”


Lose Yourself in a Time-Lapse of Carnivorous Glowworms