Friday, 14 March 2014

Going Batty!

Last weekend I spotted some bats (Pipistrelle) out in the evening up at the stables so over the next few nights I tried getting some photo's of them in flight. I started off letting the flash do its own thing on auto and managed a few bats in frame but nothing to get excited about. Having to preset the focus to a point and wait for the bat to hit the mark is pretty hit and miss but the location has potential as the bats are feeding over the muck heap and therefore restricted to a fairly small area.

Flash on auto.
Laurie Campbell first told me about photographing bats in this way when I was at Aigas Field Centre on one of his master class weeks. I didn't have an external flash gun at the time but having invested in one last year I'm now equipped to give it a go. I contacted Laurie for some advice on camera and flash settings and he reminded me that it was the speed of the flash that freezes the movement of the bat so I needed to manually set up the flash so that the flash duration was around 1/5000s. A bit of Googling for the flash duration of my flash gun revealed I needed to set it to somewhere between 1/4 and 1/8 power. This effectively reduces the flash duration as required but has the knock on effect of reducing the effective range of the flash.

The next night I tried 1/8 power but struggled to get enough effective range from the flash.

Flash on 1/8 power.
The following night I tried 1/4 power which gave me a bit more range and a little flexibility in the camera settings I could use. This was much more successful and I managed 3 reasonable images including 2 bats in one frame which was quite impressive given there were only 3 bats out!

Flash on 1/4 power.

2 bats chasing one another.

Clipped wing.
Last night I continued with the same settings and got one shot that I am pretty happy with.

I think there is plenty of room for improvement here but I'm quite happy with the improvements made over the course of the first week. I'll be looking for some other locations to try in the coming weeks.