Time-lapse photography can reveal hidden aspects of nature by speeding it up, painting the sky with star trails, dancing auroras and rowdy clouds. But in our fascination with the heavens, we often overlook subtler wonders closer to Earth. That's what Michigan photographer Vincent Brady decided to focus on for his first complete time-lapse video, a newly released tribute to the world of fireflies.

Shot in the summer of 2013, the film captures twilight masterpieces painted by fireflies — namely Photinus pyralis, North America's most common species — in both Michigan and Missouri. Also known as "lightning bugs," fireflies aren't actually flies or true bugs, but beetles that make part of their abdomens glow with the enzyme luciferase. They evolved this bioluminescence mainly for mate selection, but it has also become an iconic summer spectacle for people around the world.

Brady got the idea for this video in 2012, then spent most of last summer "dedicated to photographing fireflies, because, well, they are just awesome," he writes on YouTube. His friend Brandon McCoy also composed an original score for the project, adding to its ethereal feel. The video is a bit long at 4:48, but it's worth watching all the way through. Brady saves some of his best shots for the end, including a firefly-lit lake below star trails and the illusion of a "firefly planet" made with a polar panorama effect.

"Nothing quite ends a hot and humid summer day like the blessing of the majestic fireflies," Brady writes on YouTube. "Lake of the Ozarks [Missouri] is a fantastic home to the creatures. Being out on the boat and watching as they light the treeline with their all-night disco party is just amazing."

For more about firefly science, see this in-depth post by Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart (even though he spells "OK" like that). And for more info on the video, check out Brady's website.

Russell McLendon is science editor at MNN. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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