First, let me acknowledge the help I received from a few close friends for making this image. Setting up remote photo triggers is often an interesting challenge. Secondly, I don’t consider this an ‘Iconic Image’!
While working for the book on Daroji (Daroji – An Ecological Destination), we spent good amount of time trying to photograph Schneider’s Leaf Nosed Bats in a ruined temple in Hampi. Needless to say, we had to use some special techniques and equipments to make images of them at night. We tried to work out our lighting condition such that the habitat – the temple ruin – and the mood are also gently portrayed along with a flying bat. I thought lighting everything using flash would kill the mood but we wanted a gentle flash on the bat. So I carefully wired the flash in such a way that only the bat will be lit by the flash. To light up the pillar and ceilings we used candle lights and oil lamps (in retrospect I think that wasn’t a good idea). But then the light wasn’t reaching at all. So I thought of light painting the pillars using a torch light. I set up the exposure at 3 seconds. We guessed what the entry point of bats could be and reflective infrared triggers were wired to sense its flight in the night. Flash would go off for about 1/250 sec but the shutter would remain open for 3 seconds. During this 3 seconds interval (after the bat got exposed) I would sit in the middle of the darkness in the frame and light paint the pillars and ceilings using a warm torch light.
I must confess however that the results did not match the efforts that we put in. I would have liked some more improvements in technical correctness. However, it was a huge learning in terms of pre-visualization and carefully working with complex settings that we needed to use.
All these experiments with remote triggers taught me an important lesson – while we can eventually master the technical challenges and ‘get the subject in frame’ using remote triggers, it will need a deeper thought process into pre-visualizing how we can fill our frames with life and emotions when we use such unmanned techniques. Days of a frame filled animal portraits with a 20mm lens using remote triggers are close to their saturation point. Further, the absence of a soul behind such triggers are often very evident. Making emotionally touching images using remote triggers is a big challenge to say the least. I have not given up though!