This is [I think] a pipistrelle bat, one of a number that were fluttering near a weir on the Ballinahinch river in Connemara on the eve of the summer solstice. While I was waiting for my missus to take a few long-exposure images of the river, I decided to try taking a few snaps of the bats. I set the camera to manual focus, set the flash to full-blast, set the aperature to f13, and pointed it in the general direction of the bats as they zipped about in the air. I got lots of pictures of black sky but occasionally, I’d catch a bat somewhere in the photo. The zoom lens that I used was set to wide-angle so even when I got lucky, the bat was little more than a dot in the image. The picture above was the best of them – I had mistakenly set the shutter speed to 1/80th so the face of the bat is blurred.
If you really want to get face-to-face with a whole shedload of flying bats, you should visit Chester Zoo in the UK. There is a huge, darkened enclosure full of fruit bats whizzing about inside. The shed is very warm and humid to suit the bats (there is a bit of a stench of rotting fruit too). Visitors can enter the enclosure and, at first, you will tend to blunder about until your eyes become accustomed to the darkness. And once that happens, you’ll be able to see dozens of bats flying around – sometimes, veeeerry close to your face. Fruit bats are big, so there is a bit of a horror-movie vibe to the whole thing. On entering, visitors are assured that the bats won’t collide with you or get tangled in your hair. In particular, visitors are asked not to scream. When I was there, there was someone screaming every couple of minutes and flapping their arms about as the bats swished by them. It is amazing how fast and maneuverable are the bats, and it takes a while to fight the urge to blink or duck when a bat appears to be flying directly for your head.