We’ve had Pipistrelle Bats in the garden for many years and although I love watching them flying up and down on summer evenings, any photography attempts have been poor to say the least.
Just stepping out of the house to photograph mammals is a tempting prospect that I can’t miss, so this September I gave it another go. On average I only had less than an hour from them coming out to it getting too dark to see them in the air, so I didn’t want to waste any time getting more blurred smudges or empty black frames.
Normal flash settings are too slow to freeze the flying bat in the frame. The only flash units I have are a couple of old Nikon Speedlights that are not fully compatible on DSLRs. But since I only use them on manual settings I had an idea of what I could get away with. By setting the output level to 1/16th also changes the flash duration to about 1/87000 of a second. This should be fast enough to freeze the bats movement. The camera shutter speed is less important because its dark and will only expose what the flash hits so I left it on 1/250th sec. This proved to be a lot more successful.
The lens focus was on manual, and an aperture closed enough to get a reasonable depth of field but still get a decent exposure on the bat.
Keeping the bat in frame when pressing the shutter was hard, as they don’t half shift! But it got easier after a bit of practice and spending time watching how the bat flew.
Next step is to try and get some foliage or trees in the frame so the bats are placed in an environment more.