“Photographing bats is like fishing; you can’t see them, you just cast a line and hope you catch something,” says wildlife photographer Joe McDonald about the challenge of capturing images of the night flyers.
Along with partner and wife Mary Ann, McDonald’s images will join other bat-centric photographs (from Christian Ziegler, Louie Schwartzberg and Leighton Reid ) as part of a new exhibit at the G2 Gallery in Venice.
Night Fliers features in-flight captures and close-up portraits of bats found around the world from South America to Africa.
Of special note to Southlanders, is McDonald’s images of pallid bats which live in the area; they are frequently associated with desert areas, but they have been found in forests, woodlands, rocky canyons and open farm lands. Being a crevice rooster, pallid bats can search out old buildings, bridges, mines and hollow trees to escape from the daytime glare.
“Destruction of buildings and urban expansion likely account for observed declines in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties,” states a report from the California Department of Fish and Game about pallid bats.
To capture images of pallid bats, McDonald went to a ranch in Arizona and set up a camera trap and used an infrared trigger, hoping that a bat would pass by. “Then you have to worry about getting the right bat, the right focus, the right exposure all at the same instance,” he says adding that he probably snapped hundreds of images a night and maybe found one that worked.
The results are stunning photographs of an animal that McDonald says is at the tipping point. The near decimation of cave hibernating bats in the East and Midwest by the deadly White Nose Syndrome (WSN) could spell trouble for humanity on so many levels.
“These are animals that on the average eat about 1,000 mosquitos a night,” he says. “Their ecological role is so important and people are often just blinded by the old myths of bats.”
The exhibit is one way to celebrate the bat, see the beauty in these creatures and to look at the service that they do for us. “Savor instead of fear,” sums up McDonald.
Night Fliers is on view Sept.17- Nov. 3 at the G2 Gallery, 1503 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice.
— Brenda Rees, editor…photos copyright by Joe McDonald