If You Leave Showcase

I'm a big fan of the If You Leave page. They curate photos from around the world that consistently have a wonderful balance of artistry, technique, and experimentalism. The other day I submitted this bat photo to their flickr pool.

Pentax Asahi Takumar 135mm f/3.5 lens at f/3.5. Shutter: 1/250. ISO: 2500.

I had taken many bat photos over a period of two weeks, but this was my favorite, for both the clarity of the wing's transparency and how the face is in a perfect profile creating a silhouette that (to me anyway) is suggestive of determined movement. I was hoping it might make If You Leave's various social media feeds, but when it did I saw that it's one of 200 photos that will be reviewed for two November exhibitions - one in London, one in Berlin. Only 20 photos will make the cut, but it's fun to be in the running!

The idea for the photo came about one night after I shot one of the free summer punk shows in DC's Fort Reno Park. I was walking through a quiet corner of the park after dusk, and I noticed bats overhead. I started to come back to that spot almost nightly, getting a lot of mosquito bites and figuring out the best ways to catch the shot I wanted.

Yet again, I found I got the best results with my Asahi Takumar 135mm. It's not very fast (f/3.5) for low light, but with manual focus I didn't want too wide open of an aperture anyway. I used zone focusing of around 10 to 16 meters. I'd try to focus a bit while shooting, but it was quite a challenge - the Asahi focus ring has a very long throw, and bats are such fast, zigzaggy flyers. I found that 1/250, maybe 1/200, was the slowest I could go with shutter speeds.

One thing about shooting as the light fades - our eyes are so good at adjusting to dusk that the light might look the same to you as it did at sunset 30 minutes or an hour earlier, but you've had to make constant adjustments to your camera's settings. The aperture of pupil has opened all the way up to about f/2.1 from anywhere as high as about f/8.3. The next time you've been out in low light for a while, check out how much bokeh your naked eye can have. It can be tricky to actually see well, but if you hold your hand in front of your eyes while focusing on something a few feet away, you'll see in the corner of your eye that your hand is in a nice f/2.1 blur.

One night while going after these shots, I stayed long after the usable levels of light had faded. I was enjoying the full moon and the peace of the empty park when I noticed one of these deer walking not twenty feet away from me. It had no idea I was there. I was amazed at how silently it moved over the grass, and also nervous it would notice me and come after me with those antlers. But it moved on, and after he and his friends met by some streetlights I got this shot.

This one was with the Helios 40-2 85mm lens. Shutter: 1/10. ISO: 3200. I believe I had the aperture somewhere around f/2.5.