Photographing bats in the night sky

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Luminosity, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. Luminosity

    Luminosity No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have a rooftop terrace and there is a large colony of bats ( flying foxes ) that fly over my place every night.They start flying over around sundown and continue for pretty much most of the night and a lot of them fly reasonably low ( from where I'm standing , about 5 - 6 metres above me ).
    I just need some advice for taking pics of these cool little creatures at night...
    I just have my minolta x-570 , no flash or other equipment.....yet.
    Cheers in advance :)
     
  2. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Ahh... I envy you! Would you send me a couple of bats here in Arizona? :D :D

    Well, being that they are fast and erratic moving creatures, one method that I would employ is aiming your camera towards their flight path and setting it on T or B for a long exposure (flex shutter release a must) and then have a handheld flash ready to go. Whenever they fly by trigger the flash manually. You can experiment with that as to what apertures and strength of flash you need for a good exposure. Might want to start with a cheap B/W film and a little note pad where you write down every exposure's data so you'll know in the future what works best for your situation.

    Good luck and post some bat pics, will ya?...
     
  3. GerryDavid

    GerryDavid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    My idea to do this would be to set hte camera on the highest iso or get the highest iso film you can get, get a bunch of flood lights and light the area raound your house where you plan to take the picture, and use up a roll or a good part of the memory stick in yoru attempts to get them. :0)

    I know its no the best idea cuz high iso = noise/grain, and your neighbors may not be the happiest if you light up the entire town from your house, hehe.
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Both good ideas. Mitica100's would produce freeze action images, while GerryDavid's would show motion. Combining both techniques would be interesting.

    I think that you are going to find thaat the biggest problem is getting a decent pic of a little, tiny bat. You'll have to use a telephoto lens, and it's going to be tough to track them in the dark, and they are fast! Good luck.

    Here's how I saw a "bat-ologist" on some National Geographic show do it. She set up a camera on a tripod at the side of a lake where bats came to feed on bugs. She put an IR sensor beam (like an automatic door opener) across the lake. Then she would put the camera on bulb (it was pitch black out), open the shutter, and when a bat flew through the IR beam it triggered the flash unit. Now the flash unit is the cool part; it was constructed of 10 or 12 regular flashes, and when it goes off it goes off one after the other. This takes a pic of the bat freezing the action 10 or 12 times on the same frame, and the print shows the bat and it's flight path. It was really cool.
     
  5. steve817

    steve817 TPF Noob!

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    I guess it depends on what you want. Are you going for silhouettes or do you want them illuminated? I see you have an x-570 but what kind of lenses do you have?
     
  6. Luminosity

    Luminosity No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    *Stops a couple of bats , gives them directions to Mitica's house and asks them to "say cheese" for some batty snaps before they fly off ;) *
    Lol.

    Thank you guys for the advice !!! I will note down everything and give it a go when I'm able !
    I'm sure my neigbours will just LOVE me for lighting up the 'hood ;).

    When I do get some shots , using the above method/s you guys will be the first to see em.

    And Steve , at the risk of coming out as the camera-dumb person I AM , I know for sure that its an MD 50 mm .... but ....on the lens it has 1:2 so does that indicate its f/1.2 ? :confused:
     
  7. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    :waiting for the bats to show up: :D

    Thanks for doing this for me! Can't wait to see the first one to arrive here.

    I'll try to answer the lens question. The 1:2 means the maximum aperture on that lens is 2, if it was 1.2 it would have been 1:1.2

    Hope this... what the heck! there's the first bat!!!! :shock: :D That was fast!! makes sense!
     
  8. Luminosity

    Luminosity No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    LOL !
    Hey no probs on the bats , I sent them express but they mighta stopped along the way for a few drinks ...thats bats for ya :lol:

    They are calming to watch actually ... you just see a constant stream of them flying over all night , their wings fanning in an almost lazy , relaxed manner ... like they're in no hurry at all.
    I think a few of them stop in the tree outside my bedroom window too but I dont think thats their final destination for the night .. more like a pit stop lol.
    Oh and to answer Steves other question .... I'm not really after a fully detailed shot of them ... more a sillouhette with just enough info in that sillouhette to show that they're bats ...
    I'll see what I can come up with :D
    And the lens info IS helpful Mitica , thanks !
     
  9. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Lumi,

    I like bats for one reason, they're the best natural insecticide found around in nature. Aside from that, they're quite cute!... :D

    And just an opinion here, in regards to the silhouette shot:

    A silhouette always shows against a lit background, so the light must be coming from behind the bat to have a true silhouette. That being said and knowing they don't fly when the sun is up, I think it'd be a difficult task to photograph them as a silhouette unless you get ever so lucky that you'll capture a bat or two in the twilight after the sunset. Usually they like to come out when it's almost dark, at least the ones in Arizona. It could be because of the heat factor, I dunno... But, should you capture one or two on film, we would love to see them, silhouette or not.

    Ok, I'm off now, watching the bats... :D
     
  10. Luminosity

    Luminosity No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I agree ; I think bats are wonderful , mysterious creatures! They've had some bad press to date , what with the connection to shady characters such as Count Dracula and all ;) ......
    I will put to practice the suggestions provided here .In regards to getting sillouhettes , well , as I was typing my last post I was realizing I had set myself quite a task (even if I was an experienced photographer, which I'm obviously not lol ) .......as I would need them backlit.
    So considering they fly towards me , with the moon behind them ... I will wait for the next full moon and use that to as my giant , natural backlight :D
     
  11. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Ahh... Count Dracula, all but a myth and a frightening story. While his name was Vlad the Impaler and nickname was Dracul(which could mean either Devil or Dragon, Devil because he was cruel and unforgiving towards his enemies and Dragon because he belonged to the Order of Dragons, an old European title), he is regarded as one of the liberators since he fought off the Ottoman Empire. His methods of punishing the enemies were cruel, impaled them alive on high wooden stakes and it is said the Turks were frightened so much by such sight, they retreated, never wanting to fight someone as cruel as him. Transylvania has a dark (and pretty) name but has little to do with Vlad, he was briefly jailed there, escaping within months. And there was no such thing as blood drinking or blood sucking, all a fantasy by Bram Stoker. However, it's a good fantasy, pretty scary if you ask me.

    And just for the kicks, my mom was born in Transylvania, I have been to Dracula's castle and his royal court many times. Pretty country and one day, when I retire, I'm going to go back and do a photo essay. I'll make sure to include some Romanian bats though... :D
     
  12. steve817

    steve817 TPF Noob!

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