On my recent travels I ended up in Cairns in Northern Australia. My quest to photograph the fruit bat with a Canon 70D and a 100-400mm zoom, presented many photographic issues and troubles that came with low light photography.
Traveling through Cairns QLD in northern Australia, has been a great opportunity. The wildlife is one of colour and amazement at just about every turning. Although whilst walking along the beach or any swamp like areas please keep an eye out for crocodiles. That’s my brief safety tip. Yet a very important one.
I spent the late afternoon to early evening awaiting the arrival of the fruit bats, a giant amongst the bat world and a truly spectacular thing to witness. The sky and trees filled with these winged giants, an aerial display of 100s of bat all leaving the day time roosts in search of the next feeding haunt. After several hours and a few extra fruity cocktails (well I was on a beach next to a bar). It dawned on me the picture quality as the night commenced was getting difficult to impossible. Trying several low light options on my Canon 70D with a Canon 100-400mm usm ii lens, just wasn’t producing a shot worth a share. I even tried some low light video taking, yet alas this also proved fruitless.
The difficulty of videoing next to the beach whilst stopping local kids from annoying the dogs and a keeping an eye on a 4 yr old was a nightmare. Oh the things we do in the name of art! Different settings and a more complete understanding of both iso and f values did increase my chances fractionally although trying to capture in the extremely overcast and low lighting conditions was a real test of skills. Using f/11 to try to capture as much of the scene as possible in order to give more details about the location, i.e., shooting through and flying above the trees.
The high iso was the result of trying to capture both movement (to communicate motion) and trying to capture in extremely low light. Panning is difficult anyway, but at night the photography is very challenging.
Cairns and surrounding area
After talking too and seeking the advice of the locals, I hunted around for a couple of days in some of the suggested locations. Finally, some two days later, I stumbled across their day time hiding place. During this earlier time of the afternoon photographing the Fruit bats was considerably easier. A better light both sunny and with some reflections from the water and the beach have helped increase light. I have to say it was a real treat to be able to use the canon equipment (Canon 70D with a canon 100-400mm usm ii) to capture a shot I am truly happy to share.
This is a fruit bat in the daytime. I am utilising the bright conditions and reflections of the water to help increase lighting. The canon 100-400mm usm ii gives such extra reach without comprising to much clarity and sharpness. I used the f/5.6 to give a defined shot of the face and front of the wing, leaving the DOF (depth of field) relatively narrow. I did this because it gives a small amount of framing to the specific area in, I want to draw the eye towards the centre and the bat itself as this is my main subject. Leaving the leaves in the back ground I think adds to the story, as in its in the trees. Hopefully you can see that.