The transfer of laboratory cultures of H. pluvialis to high irradiance outdoors caused a substantial decline in the maximum quantum yield of photosystem II (PSII), from 0.65 in the morning to 0.45 at midday, as measured by the ratio of variable to maximum fluorescence yields (F-v/F-m), and a steep rise in non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). Chlorophyll fluorescence induction curves of morning samples showed a clear I-step, reflecting a certain PSII heterogeneity. Single turnover flash measurements on samples taken from the outdoor photobioreactor in the middle of day showed an increase in the reoxidation time constant of the reduced plastoquinone Q(A)(-), i.e., the time required for electron transfer from the primary plastoquinone acceptor of PSII Q(A)(-) to the secondary plastoquinone acceptor Q(B). Photosynthesis rates were almost constant during the day. Along with the increase in non-photochemical quenching, there was a slight increase in zeaxanthin and antheraxanthin contents and decrease in violaxanthin, showing the presence of an operative xanthophyll cycle in this microalga. A marked increase of secondary carotenoids was found at the end of the first day of exposure to sunlight, mainly astaxanthin monoester, which reached 15.5% of the total carotenoid content. Though cells turned reddish during the second day, the decline in the fluorescence parameter F-v/F-m in the middle of the day was less than during the first day, and there was no further increase in the value for NPQ. Similar behaviour was observed during the third day when the culture was fully red. After four days of exposure to sunlight, the dry weight reached 800 mg L-1 and the concentration of secondary carotenoids (81% astaxanthin monoester) reached 4.4% dry weight.