Saturday, 28 June 2008

How to Shoot a Flying Bat Portrait?

In Borneo when fruits ripen on a tree, fruit bats would be sure to visit at night and make short work of them! Special favourites of fruit-eating bats in people’s gardens are rambutan, jambus (rose apple, water apple), guava, mango and banana.

I had always wanted to photograph bats in flight, not just pictures of bats hanging upside down in cages or on the roofs of caves, but it was only quite recently that I managed to take some quite nice flying bats photos.

At first I tried shooting bats (with a camera not bird-shots!) attacking a tree heavy with ripening jambu air or water apple Syzygium samarangense (syn. Eugenia javanica) by blindly aiming and clicking my camera at them hoping to capture a few in focus! Well, this failed rather miserably, yielding only a few images of just recognisable bat-like creatures! Luckily I was shooting digital and not with old-fashioned film!

However later I found out how tame bats could be and would actually come quite close to me to eat fruits placed or hung outside the house. So I set up my camera equipped with a good flash unit on a tripod focused on a piece of fruit, usually banana, hung in my verandah.

The bats will usually pass by the fruit a few times before landing and clinging on to the fruit to eat it. To get a nice flight photo I had to press the shutter just before the bat landed on the banana. Most times I got a photo of a bat embracing the banana or hanging on to it but after much practice and many attempts I was able to capture a few acceptable portraits of Mr (and Mrs) Batman.

Although there are many species of fruit-bats in Borneo, ranging in size from mouse-sized nectar bats to the very large flying foxes, I had so far only able to attract and photograph only one (I think) common species – which I believe is the Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bat Cynopterus brachyotis.


Mingfei said...

Wow, excellent shots! Thanks for sharing.

tabbydan said...

Very cool bat shots. I'll be in Borneo in June looking for tips on finding native fruits of Borneo (like Terap, red fleshed durian,...) I know June is the low season for fruits. If you can email me and send me some tips on growers, guides to wild fruits... that would be great.

Nice photos