Category Archives: Photography

Badger hole in Newbridge Wood

Badger holeI’m lighting up badger setts with a two flash setup – the key light on a lighting stand or bolted to a tree to splash light from the side, and a flash on the camera to put detail in the shadows. However, to get a nighttime look, perhaps it’s better to just use the one key light as above, leaving the shadows black and featureless.

I could do with more cooperation from the badgers.

A gridded snoot

Light through strawsOne of the projects that I am working on at the moment is to produce images of woodland, countryside and wildlife at night. I have spent such a lot of time over the years photographing our nocturnal wildlife, but looking at the resulting images, you wouldn’t know that they were taken in twilight, or even darkness.

I am hoping that a light modifier on the flash on my camera so that it produces a narrow beam of light – like most torches – will enable images which are obviously taken at night. So I am putting the finishing touches to a gridded snoot, assembled from a section of drainpipe, a box of black drinking straws, a beercan cooler and superglue.

If it helps me to get some good results, it may merit an item on the website.

Lighting a badger sett

I have spent some time recently working on a new approach to photographing badgers. With a flashgun on the camera, the lighting is boring, creates harsh shadows, and makes elements closer to the camera than the subject, such as the ground or vegetation, unpleasantly bright or even burnt out.

My new approach is to use off-camera flash, and multiple flashes. This photograph is lit by a flashgun attached to a tree branch, snooted to limit the spread of light, and a flashgun on the camera to light the shadows created by the key light. Having balanced the two light sources satisfactorily, the next problem was the lack of control over where the badgers would emerge. The only solution is concentrated observation at the same sett in order to anticipate the behaviour of the animals.

A better bat photo

Two nights ago, I was batting again. I had taken delivery of a set of what are known as “Ebay triggers”, consisting of a transmitter which normally would sit on the camera’s flash shoe, and a couple of receivers which have shoes to hold a flashgun. Switch on the receivers, press the camera button and the flashguns flash. But – no through-the-lens metering, everything’s totally manual.

They solved a problem for me. I had the laser beam sensor triggering a small flash pointing to my main flash in order to set it off with a simple optical trigger, and this risked spilling light into my camera lens. This session, I had the small flash pointing at an optical trigger with the transmitter on top. I then had two flashguns, fitted with the receivers, illuminating the target breaking the laser beam. This enabled me to position the flashguns anywhere, without risk of flare in my lens.

Got it?

Trouble was, no bats. Not flying through my laser beam, anyway. However, there was a huge hatch of insects from the river which showed up as midges which needed slapping, but also as dancing red dots in the laser beam:


This photograph shows all the insects interrupting the beam in approximately ten seconds. Multiply that over the area of the pool, and it shows an incredible number of insects hatching – all in a very short time, as the activity slowed down dramatically after only a few minutes. I wonder if anyone has used a laser beam like this to study the phenomenon?

Despite the plentiful food available, there were very few bats around, and none of them flew around my backwater. I did wonder whether they were put off by one of my flashguns which was mounted over water, so tonight I laid out my equipment with nothing encroaching on the bat’s domain.

There was very little insect activity, but plenty of bats around. Bill and I held our breaths each time they approached the beam, waiting for the flash which would indicate success, but nothing happened. I went home rather despondent, but when I went through the pictures, I found that I had a photo after all:



The time on the file showed that it was taken early on, when it was still quite light, and I remembered that Bill and I had been chatting when the flash went off. Neither of us had seen a bat, and we put it down to a midge interrupting the beam.

The photograph is heavily cropped, and the bat was near the edge of the frame. It’s a great improvement on the previous photographs and is encouraging because, while there is still some motion blur, there is room for improvement – the flashguns were set at 1/16th power.

First Bat Photo

And so to Plan B. The bats were flying over open water, so the laser beam had to be set up to intercept them:


A scaffolding pole was set up in the middle of the water, to which the laser was attached. The sensor unit was set up on the shingle bank, and was connected to a small flashgun which was angled so as not to throw light into the camera lens, but activate the flash trigger on the main flashgun, pointing at the laser beam.

Last night, the bats hunted over the main pool below the bridge, but did not hunt the pool where my equipment lay in wait. Perhaps they were put off by the pole in the middle of the water? Tonight, however, they did, and I have my first pictures:


There are lessons to be learnt from this photograph. First, the red spot from the laser shows that the bat has moved only a very short distance after interrupting the laser beam before the flash went off. No problems here. Secondly, there is motion blur rather than out-of-focus blur, so next session, I must turn down the power on the flashgun in order to shorten the flash duration.


The next photograph was at the very edge of the frame, and the bat was moving away from the camera.

These bats (Daubenton’s) can catch insects on the surface of the water by scooping them up with the flap of skin joining the rear legs and tail.

This bat seems to have done just that, because it is possible to see some droplets of water falling from the bat’s back legs.







Later on, we noticed some bats apparently flying through the beam without triggering the flash. This turned out to be due to the battery in the sensor box needing re-charging, and it explained this apparently mystifying photograph:


The red lines on the right hand side is a bat flying through the laser beam without triggering the flash! I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again …