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07-06-2011, 06:43 PM   #1
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Help! The Bats are Back! Catch In Focus

Every summer I get a quite a few bats in the backyard just before dark. They fly around for about 20 minutes and it's over until the next night.
I'm trying to utilize the catch-in-focus on my K7 to get a good shot.
I can get the feature to work for a single shot but I'd rather have the camera take a photograph everytime the focus indicator lights up. I'm using a wired remote in the locked position. If something comes into focus the camera takes one shot but I'd have to unlock the remote and re-lock it in order for the camera to fire again.
What I'm trying to do is pick a frequent spot that the bats flight path. That's rather hard to do because they fly erratic but I'm familiar enough with their habits to pick a good spot. Every time a bat enters the focus area and the indicator lights, I'd want the camera to fire. Is there a setting that will allow the K7 to fire more that once on the same remote setup? I tried single shot setting on the remote and continuous. I'm in AFS with a 50mm M 1.4.

EDIT: Never mind. My son figured out that I have to set the camera to regular continuous shooting rather than remote continuous. Works great. We'll try it tomorrow evening.


Last edited by seachunk2; 07-06-2011 at 06:51 PM.
07-06-2011, 07:38 PM   #2
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We're waiting expectantly. It worked with my SF-1, no reason it won't with your K7.
07-07-2011, 06:41 PM   #3
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UPDATE: I set the K7 with a manual focus 400mm Sigma on a tripod, shake reduction turned off. I focused the lens on a tree branch located in a frequent fly path and then moved the camera slightly so it was aiming into the sky. I set the camera to center Focus and mounted a flash. The bats crossed the focus point several times but the camera didn't fire. It seems so though the bats fly through the focus point but the camera doesn't have time to react. If I moved the camera to the focus point (the tip of a tree branch), the camera fired. So the remote & catch in focus was working.
What setup should I try tomorrow? Different lens maybe?
07-07-2011, 07:44 PM   #4
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I found that the trickiest bit was to actually have the camera pointing at the correct place. With the hummingbirds, I had to set the camera so it caught the birds where they flare out to land on the perch. Was the bat flying toward you or sideways? Can you set the camera to manual focus, still on the tripod, and take a shot or two to see where the bats are actually flying? That might help with the diagnosis of your troubles. It will be worth it when you get the bugs out of the procedure.

07-07-2011, 08:31 PM   #5
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'nuff said.
07-07-2011, 10:07 PM   #6
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Well, that would be enough to discourage me - or get me so uptight that I would try to do it on the cheap. K10 + DA* 50-135 (it's MF only now ) so it works fine in Catch-in-focus. Using, of course my AF 540 FTZ as the primary flash, in manual mode (the distance is known) so that the lag time of the pre-flashes doesn't interrupt the proceedings. I'll have to see if I can find some bat colonies up here.
07-08-2011, 01:12 AM   #7
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The bats were flying side ways. Aside from the low light factor I find shooting bats very difficult because unlike most birds, the bat's fly path is extremely erratic.
For the most part, the bats are flying across the yard belonging to my neighbor directly behind my property in somewhat of a oval path. The width of the yard is only 65 feet and the depth is about 25. So it a rather small working area. The other obstacle is that they are flying fast and I have to pint my camera upwards. The background is often the sky so I don't get any bounce from the flash. I capture the bats when I hand hold the camera but the images are too blurry. The image lacks detail. Pretty much all I get is a silhouette image.
What I might try tonight.... aim the camera towards my neighbors house to establish a background rather than shooting into the infinite sky. Estimated the focus point that lies somewhere in the middle of the 25 foot depth. I'll use a wider lens, maybe try a Tamron 90 or else a 24-135 so I can try different FL. Engage the remote in lock position with the camera set to center point focus. Maybe I should switch to auto focus point? The focus mode will be set to AFS. The drive mode will be continuous high. I'll pump the ISO to 800 and set the Sigma 530ST flash to TTL. The camera will be on a tripod with SR off. The bats usually swoop downwards after they come in over the tree tops. That puts the house behind them for a second or so as they fly across the yard. Sound reasonable?
07-08-2011, 06:44 AM   #8
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Hi seachunk,

I'd think that the low light is preventing the AF system from registering a focus indication for Focus Trapping. Either that, or the bats are flying by at distances where they are not quite in the focus plane. Remember that your camera focuses with the lens wide open, so the DOF that the AF system has to work with is as shallow as it's going to get for that lens at that distance.

If you've had some past success capturing the bats, I'd use the same lens and technique but just add a flash. Most techniques for capturing moving subjects that fast are difficult enough that practice is the only way to start getting consistent results, so once you start to get good at a wider FL, only then try going longer.

I'd use a higher ISO to maximize the flash's range. I'd also try a very high ISO to see if you can get multiple flashes with the camera set to continuous (probably lo) shutter, but this probably won't work. With the flash, you can also use smaller apertures to give you deeper DOF which will help minimize focus errors.

Regardless, this sounds like an extremely tough shoot. . .

Scott

07-08-2011, 08:11 AM   #9
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Hi, seachunk - I would think that the flight path of the bats is a major problem. I have found it darned near impossible to track them with a set of binoculars for the same reason Scott mentions - the erratic path they take. Did you check out the elaborate shoot in England in an earlier post in your thread? One thing to note is that he used ropes to channel the bats to a restricted area in the pond because of the difficulty of getting decent (his are absolutely fabulous!) images.

Scott, you must use center point to use CIF. It's a different way of using the AF system. The reaction time of the camera is less because it does not have to focus the lens, so if one cannot get a photo with CIF, trying it with regular AF would be a complete no show. I use CIF fairly often with my M 400/5.6 and very often with my M 100/4 macro. With the 400, I use it to catch moving subjects by focusing where I am pretty certain that the bird/animal will pass through. I have also used it for stationary subjects such as a bird singing on a perch. In this latter case I will focus slowly through the bird and let Mr. Pentax release the shutter. This allows me to concentrate more on the pose and less on the mechanics. With the macro, CIF is the only way to go hand held, whether flower or flying beastie. The depth of field at these close ranges is terribly narrow.
07-08-2011, 03:21 PM   #10
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You already received a lot of good advice, and you may have found yourself a way.

I believe that MF is the only solution in very low light or low light with fast moving objects. Specifically, MF + Hi continuous shooting. I would set the focus distance manually on the lens, by estimating at best the distance from the lens to the point that you want to shoot. This is by far the simplest technique IMHO and it works...

Hope that the comments will help.
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