Volume 37, Issue 1, 2018

Framing Flight

The art of photographing bats


FramingFlight
Courtesy of Stephen Dalton / Minden Pictures

 

Since the inception of modern photography in the mid-1800s, we have been fascinated by the ability to freeze time. The idea that we can capture a fleeting moment, for sentimental or educational reasons, has revolutionized the way we interact with the world around us.

Perhaps no other animal epitomizes the idea of impermanence than earth’s only flying mammal—the bat. These fast-moving nocturnal animals provide amateur and professional photographers alike the perfect opportunity to hone their skills.

As with all good things, patience (and a dash of luck) can produce some spectacular results.

We’ve curated some of our favorite bat images from over the years to get a glimpse of what happens behind the camera, as well as to learn about the unique bats that captivate our imaginations:

 

Courtesy of Jonathan Alonzo

Photography can be a deeply personal experience. Jonathan Alonzo captured this moment of a young girl watching the Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) of Bracken Cave as evening approached. “I was about her age when I first visited the cave and I have been intrigued by nature ever since,” Alonzo recalls. “The photo was taken in low light but I really like the hope for the future in this picture. Getting kids excited about the bats and nature and conservation is what it’s all about long term.”

 

Courtesy of Keiko & Yuhsi Osawa

Since 2006, wildlife photographers Keiko & Yushi Osawa have been photographing fruit bats across the globe, as well as near their home in Japan. While visiting the island of Okinawa, they captured this image of a Ryukyu flying fox (Pteropus dasymallus) in skies above a shopping mall decorated in Christmas lights. Ryukyu flying foxes will often come to urban areas to forage on flowering trees along the streets. Keiko and Yushi observed the flyway of the bats and set up to capture this image as one flew overhead.

 

Courtesy of Michael Durham / Minden Pictures

For photographer Michael Durham, the more elusive a subject, the more interesting the photo. He captured this sequence of a western small-footed myotis (Myotis ciliolabrum) pursuing its next meal. These bats will typically tuck themselves away in caves and rock outcrops during the day, emerging in the early evening to feed on small flying insects like flies and moths. These highly agile fliers can be seen foraging among boulders, cliffs, shrubs and trees of arid to semi-arid regions of western North America.

 

Courtesy of Thomas Marent / Minden Pictures

Wildlife photographer Thomas Marent snapped this image of a roosting male large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) in Malaysia. Among the largest bat species, the large flying fox can be found throughout much of continental and insular Southeast Asia. This species can form colonies containing nearly 20,000 individuals in large tree roosts. Like the majority of fruit bats, this species lacks the ability to echolocate, but instead has well-developed eyesight to help locate its food - fruit, nectar and flowers.

While photography is a remarkable tool for appreciating bats, be aware of your local laws before venturing out. In some countries, like the UK, it is a criminal offense to intentionally disrupt a bat in its roost. A license may be required. Always refrain from disturbing hibernating bats. And be mindful while using flash photography, as it could upset bats’ natural behavior and cause them stress, especially while roosting.

 

 

 

 

 

All articles in this issue: