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07-03-2010, 02:26 AM   #1
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Wish Me Luck Shooting Bats!

I have a bunch of bats that come out at night at what seems like EXACTLY 9:00 PM every evening. That in itself amazes me. I've been trying to SHOOT them each evening, with my K7 & Kx of course.
Let me say, they have got to be the most difficult subject to shoot. They fly relatively fast, extremely erratic and only in far less than ideal light conditions.
So far I seem to be doing slightly better with the Kx at 6400 ISO. If I shoot on the wide side with the 18-55 lens I'll get better exposure but the bat's image is too small. If I go with the the 55-300, I can't catch the bat in the composition.
Every night that I go out there I experiment but even though I haven't gotten anywhere near the results I'm hoping for, I feel like I'm learning a lot about photography and what both of these cameras can and can't do.
I really don't have a question but I posting my opinion if there's anyone else out there that has bats buzzing around, you might want to try shooting them for the ultimate photographic challenge.
On my next attempt, I will set the camera on a particular point focused within 6 feet of the tripod (I think I'm better off with the Kx). I'll make sure there's a background of tree/ foliage rather than sky. I'll use the built in flash (that's all I have right now) and I go with about 100mm focal length.
From doing this shooting each evening I'm aware that several times during the 30 minutes or so that they're flying around, they seem to do a very low buzz flyby only a few feet above my head. It seems like it always happens from the same direction so that's how I'll set up and then just hope they do their typical routine.
I'll kick the exposure comp to +3, ISO 6400, shutter speed has to be at least 1/30 sec and aperture at F11 to give me some DOF. I'm not sure if this is feasible but that what I'm thinking I need to do. So maybe I have a question after all. what is the best mode and settings?

By the way, seeing bats like this in a typical suburban area in the middle of Long Island is amazing to me. I don't recall seeing too many of them in the 45 years I've lived on LI. I get a kick from seeing a flock of them popping out at 9 each night. They amaze me, I wish I could be so punctual! I hear they're good to have around because they eat the bugs.


Last edited by seachunk2; 07-03-2010 at 03:49 AM.
07-03-2010, 04:42 AM   #2
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Sounds like a great subject to practice on, seachunk2! Have you tried the "catch in focus" setting? I've only had my kx for a month, but I've been dying to try that feature! Sounds like it might work in your case... just set the camera and wait for something to fly into the shot. At least that's how I think it's supposed to work!

And, yes, bats are awesome for bug control! I think they eat about a third of their body weight in insects every night or 150 mosquitoes in 15 minutes or something crazy like that. Maybe one of your pictures will catch a bat in some bug-control action!
07-03-2010, 05:26 AM   #3
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I managed to capture a bat in flight few weeks ago, it's not a good picture because tripod shaked.

horsthelmut.kuvat.fi

There are few things that I noticed when taking these pictures. I should've lighted it by pointing the flash upwards, underside is a lot lighter so I could get shorter flash by reducing power.
07-03-2010, 06:15 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Horst-Helmut Quote
I managed to capture a bat in flight few weeks ago, it's not a good picture because tripod shaked.

horsthelmut.kuvat.fi

There are few things that I noticed when taking these pictures. I should've lighted it by pointing the flash upwards, underside is a lot lighter so I could get shorter flash by reducing power.
Very nice Horst-Helmut.
Good luck with your project seachunk2, post some when you have a chance.

07-03-2010, 06:22 AM   #5
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You do have a challenge on your hands. Birds are difficult enough but they stop from time to time while bats keep moving and when they do stop, it's not going to be in a place for an easy shot. You're never going have good light as bats are nocturnal. Catch in focus isn't likely to work well in the low light and I doubt that a flying bat would trigger the shutter in the low light. Getting a good flash should be high on your list. The built in flash doesn't have much power and you're not going to get that close. You're going to need flash to freeze the action. Shooting with flash at f/11 should get some results, along with patience and a little luck. The flash would let you use a much lower ISO and wider lens and allow you to crop with better quality results. Another possibility would be mounting the camera up high somewhere and triggering it with a remote. You mentioned trees. An accessory like the gorilla pod could work for this.
07-03-2010, 08:17 AM   #6
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You're going to need more than luck, my friend. As you already noted, bats come out extremely quickly in very dim light. If you want to stop one in mid-flight, you're probably going to have to get close and use flash.
07-03-2010, 08:29 AM   #7
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And I thought shooting fireflies was tough! Go to Flickr and search for "flying bat". Find some nice ones, look at the EXIF and ask questions.

Good luck!
07-03-2010, 09:06 AM   #8
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Original Poster
Thanks for all the replies. I'm absorbing all the information and advice so don't mind me if I only reply on occasion.
As Reeftool suggested, a high quality flash is high on my list, now if I could only figure out a way to get it high on my wife's list.
I'll post some of my shots as soon as I get something worthy. I might not get to shoot until Sunday night at the earliest (going to my daughter's for the 4th), probably Monday is more likely.
Anyway, thanks for the info and hope all of you have a great (and safe) holiday!

Horse-Helmut....that's a really cool shot!

07-03-2010, 10:02 AM   #9
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Tell you wife that a good flash will make photos of her look better.

Yeah, they are expensive. My daughter just graduated from college this spring and knowing I had a lot of inside shooting, I had to lay out the cash for a flash. I've used it once since then. I almost considered bringing the Spotmatic and shooting film and using my very old Honeywell flash that still works. I bought the Metz 48 and have had very good results the times I have used it so no regrets. There have been some photos posted from time to time here in the forum of birds and other critters where the flash was used. Good luck with the bats. If I had bats as regular visitors in my yard, I would try to get some photos also.
07-03-2010, 10:22 AM   #10
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You may need a faster lens, something f2.8, f1.8, or f1.4. You may also need a serious flash.

I don't know if catch in focus will work in low light, but I expect it will still be limited by the lens, and at f5.6 that lens is going to be way too slow.
07-03-2010, 10:36 AM   #11
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Give them a reason to come down low. Make a bat house and put it up in a tree not too close to buildings, near, but not too near some light from say a street light, set up your gear, then wait. A friend and I used to watch bats all the time and we made bat houses so they would have a reason to visit. It works.
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