Sure, you've heard of storm chasers.
That's just not much of an option for Southern California photographers, really. Last year, however, when a red tide's bacteria lit up the coastline from Ventura to Baja in electric blue light, a bioluminescence chaser was born.
Patrick Coyne, a photographer and videographer from Torrance, California, caught the bug -- bad -- last year. It hit just as the pandemic shut everything else down, so he spent weeks traveling up and down the coast with his "adventure buddy" Mark Girardeau, eventually capturing now-iconic images of dolphins playing in the fluorescent-blue waves. He ended the season, as it were, in San Diego in May, shooting video and stills of the Scripps Pier bathed along its 1,00-plus foot length in a beautiful glow from the waves and pier's sodium light. Blue and orange, folks -- that's just Color Wheel 101.
So it's no surprise, really, that Coyne was back out the last month or so, shooting the Day-Glo waves breaking in Orange County.
"Me and my friend Mark chased it for about a month [last year], the bioluminescence, all along the coast, everywhere from Hermosa, Manhattan, down to San Diego, so, you know, it was a lot of fun," Coyne told NBC 7 on Thursday. "It left and we missed it, so this year, it randomly popped up again, so, of course, we went out and filmed it and had a good time and then that lasted about five days and it went away. Well, a month later, [it returned]."
A local scientist who monitors SoCal piers weekly told NBC 7 that San Diego has had some appearances by the glowing bacteria this year, but not like it's been up north.
"Newport Beach Pier has had a high abundance of the bioluminescent Lingulodinium polyedra for the last two to three months," Clarissa Anderson, the executive director of Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS), wrote in an email on Thursday. "Scripps Pier too -- just a little more sporadic."
Coyne might have painted his luminescent masterpiece the night of April 17, though, when he met up with Girardeau, and another friend, also named Marc, who brought along his husky, Balto. Acting on a tip, the trio hit Venice Beach first, but moved on to Newport Beach, where Balto took a star turn in the harbor.
"I wanted to try something a little bit different….'What's next? What would be cool to see, like, the water being agitated and glowing blue?' " Coyne said. "And our buddy had his dog, and his dog is named Balto, and I asked Marc, I asked him, 'Marc, can Balto swim?' And he was like, 'Yeah, Balto can swim.' I was like, 'Let's see if he'll swim in the bioluminescence.' So we took him out and he was enjoying it."
Balto, of course, is named for the sled dog whose adventures were recounted in a '70s children's book of the same name. Seeing Balto serenely swimming to shore in Newport Harbor, glowing blue, is truly something to behold, a worthy update to his namesake's exploits.
So how can locals catch this year's blue wave? Coyne said it won't be easy.
"The hard thing about bioluminescence is there's no date," Coyne said. "There's no time, there's no right or wrong answer when it happens or when it will happen or how good it will be."
Coyne has bioluminescent images for sale for anybody who's wants a case of the blues -- just check him out on his Instagram.