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Capturing fireflies

Fairfield man subject of short film on love of lightning bugs

Radim Schreiber has been photographing fireflies for about 20 years ever since he came to the United States from the Czech Republic. (Photo courtesy of Radim Schreiber)
Radim Schreiber has been photographing fireflies for about 20 years ever since he came to the United States from the Czech Republic. (Photo courtesy of Radim Schreiber)
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FAIRFIELD – Fairfield resident Radim Schreiber has become known around the world for his unique passion of photographing fireflies.

It’s a passion that has garnered him awards from Smithsonian Magazine and the National Wildlife Federation. Schreiber said he believes fireflies open doors to “joy, magic and deep connection with nature.”

Schreiber notched another achievement in his belt when he became the subject of a short, locally produced film about his firefly photography.

The film is appropriately titled “Firefly Photographer Captures the Magic of Fireflies.”

Students and staff at Maharishi International University produced a three-minute documentary showcasing Schreiber’s love of lightning bugs and his photographs exhibited around the world.

Schreiber approached his friend Amine Kouider last year about making a movie on his firefly photography. Kouider had just become the department chair for MIU’s Department of Cinematic Arts and New Media, and felt the project would be a great short film for his students to work on.

Unfortunately, the firefly season is so short in Iowa, usually just a couple of weeks in June, that Kouider wasn’t able to organize a shoot in time. The pair decided to do the film in 2020.

‘magical experience’

Earlier this summer, Abdul Mokhtar, who Kouider describes as “one of our star students” in the film program, enrolled in an internship class where he took the lead on filming and editing the short film about Schreiber’s photography.

Near the end of filming, Kouider brought in Nina Ziv to film drone shots that Kouider said took the film “to the next level.” Ziv was MIU’s 2020 valedictorian and is a documentary filmmaker herself.

Mokhtar said it was a “magical experience” to film fireflies during their active season in the summer. On the first night of filming, he found a field off an empty gravel road where thousands of fireflies descended. The sky was clear that night, so he was able to capture the fireflies against a backdrop of stars.

Filming took two and a half weeks and editing a further two. Upon its completion, Schreiber shared the film on Facebook, which Mokhtar said generated “a ton of positive feedback.” People told him the movie made them feel like they were present in those fields, too, surrounded by fireflies.

“As the creators of the movie, it was always our goal to have this resonate with people on that level,” he said, “to transport them into the magical fairytale world of fireflies and expose them to the world in which Radim photographs and captures their magic.”

Win-win

Kouider, who produced the film, said he was thrilled to oversee this win-win collaboration between the Cinematic Arts and New Media departments and a high-caliber photographer in Schreiber.

“Seeing my students diligently applying their skills and creating an exquisite short film, having Radim share his knowledge and process of capturing the beauty of fireflies, and being able to be part of the making of the film by supporting the process gave me deep joy and satisfaction,” Kouider said.

Schreiber and the filmmakers are hosting a Facebook Live discussion of the film at 7:30 p.m. today, Sept. 2, when they will talk about the work that went into making it, and take questions from the online audience. To participate, visit: Facebook.com/RadimPhoto.

Background

Schreiber hails from the Czech Republic, where fireflies are rare. Schreiber doesn’t have childhood memories of chasing fireflies like many children do. His interest in them came later in life.

Schreiber enrolled at Maharishi International University in the late 1990s to learn English and planned to stay only three months. When he arrived, he was “blown away” by the number of fireflies and their brightness. He became interested in insect photography, and in fireflies particularly. He was mesmerized by photos of them up close. He remembers being one of the first people in town to get a hold of a digital camera to capture their beauty.

Schreiber worked as a photographer and digital media specialist at Sky Factory in Fairfield for 13 years until five years ago, when he became an independent photographer dedicated to shooting fireflies. He travels the world searching for them, in countries such as Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan.

He said southeast Asia is a hotspot for the creatures because they love the tropical climate. Fireflies can be seen in some U.S. states such as Florida nine months out of the year, and in countries like Malaysia all year long. However, Schreiber noted that Florida has engaged in widespread mosquito spraying, which has had the side effect of hurting its firefly population in recent years.

Awards

Schreiber’s firefly photography started turning heads more than a decade ago. He held an exhibit of his work at Teeple Hansen Gallery in Fairfield in 2010. The following year, he won two prestigious awards, earning first place in the National Wildlife Federation’s photo contest and first place in the Smithsonian Magazine’s photo contest.

He would win first again in the Smithsonian’s photo contest five years later.

His photography has been featured in publications such as the Washington Post, Defenders of Wildlife Magazine and Sierra Magazine, just to name a few. It’s appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, the BBC, the Weather Channel and commercials for Asus, Jeep and Phillips.

Schreiber said it felt a bit different to be on the other side of the camera for this recent film about him.

“I wondered, ‘Will people like me?’” he said. “But I’m happy that Amine and his students made me look good.”

If people want to see this film or more of Radim’s firefly photos, visit http://www.FireflyExperience.org. The short film about Schreiber is now on the homepage and this page: https://fireflyexperience.org/pages/about