A cosmic ride through a marine galaxy. Luminary is like nothing we’ve seen before.


We were floored when this piece slid into our inboxes. Filmed just south of Sydney at Jervis Bay, this piece of cinematography combines skill, timing and ever-evolving camera technology. We spoke to cinematographer Ewan Donnachie about what it took to produce the film:

Marine bioluminescence is caused by a concentration of dinoflagellate plankton that exhibits light when disturbed. Blooms like this first came onto my radar via Instagram. The problem is, they were always slow-shutter images, which never gives an accurate indication of what the event looks like to the naked eye (just ask anyone who’s been hunting the Northern Lights alongside someone with a tripod and good knowledge of long-exposure photography).

Unfortunately, slow shutter settings aren’t very useful when it comes to filming, so I was doubtful there would be enough exposure to render an image. Regardless, I kept in contact with some locals for around 12 months and one afternoon they sent me photos of a beach in Jervis Bay covered in pink sludge. This is how the dinoflagellate appears during the day.

By the time we arrived at around 10 pm that night, it was quite clear that the camera would have no problem picking up the available light. The dinoflagellate was so thick that you could take a handful and let it drip down your arm like fluorescent blue paint. It was remarkable – like nothing I’d ever seen before!

The bioluminescence got stronger as the night wore on. You could watch the outline of fish darting through the face of bright, skeleton waves as they broke out of the blackness and onto the sand at our feet. The water’s edge was pulsing with fluorescence and every step exploded in blue light.

Special thanks to Bella, who swam in the 16 degree water at midnight for almost an hour. I’d like to say this was the last time she will suffer for my art but in truth, that’s hopeful at best.

Camera Setup

  • Sony A7S II
  • 35mm f1.4 lens
  • 20mm f1.4 in a water housing


Catch more of Ewan’s work on Vimeo or follow him on Instagram.