Best 10 Nature Images of 2016

At the end of the last 2 year, I enjoyed going through my photos and picking my favourite nature images.  It’s a fun exercise but I didn’t manage to do it on time this year. It is almost 3 months late!

While I still enjoyed macro photography, 2016 was my least active year since I took up this hobby in 2007!  With fewer shootings, it is normal that I don’t have many great photos. Only 10 images made the list this year!

#1 – Cousins of Hoppers

Grasshoppers and katydid are related and belong to the Order Orthoptera (meaning “straight wings”).  Although they were probably cousins, it was an unusual moment to find them resting happily on the same dewy perch.

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| F16, 1/4s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#2 – Change

It is not uncommon to see moulting of leaf-footed bug but this one stands out for the nice colour contrast which is really pleasing to the eyes.

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| F11, 1/40s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#3 – Complicated Relationship

This is not a fantastic photo but I like it because it is really rare to find three giant millipedes doing some kind of business together.  Were there mating or what?

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| F8, 1/25s, ISO 800, fill flash |

#4 – Sex competition

Mating leaf beetles at Zhenghua Forest is quite a common sight. On 16 April 2016, there were at least 10 pairs within a radius of one metre.  We were delighted to spot 2 pairs on the same perch.  It was a real challenge to get both couples in sharp focus. I am glad this image turns out well.

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| F16, 1/30s, ISO 400, Fill Flash |

#5 – In Love with Tawny Coster

Butterfly is one of the most difficult subjects to shoot as they do not stay at a position for more than a few seconds.  The best time to shoot them is when they are mating.  I was fortunate to get this beautiful pair with clean background.

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| F11, 1/20s, ISO 400, fill flash |

#6 – Mating Ladybirds

The strong sunlight at the back helps to bring out the details and lines of the leaf which makes this shot interesting.

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| F22, 1/20s, ISO 400, Fill Flash |

#7 – Katydids Love Flowers

Two katydid nymphs enjoying their favorite breakfast.  A LED light was placed behind to get a backlighting effect.

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| F16, 1/20s, ISO 400, Fill Flash with backlighting |

#8 – Mushrooms Crossing

It was interesting to watch this caterpillar crossing from one mushroom to another. It can crawl pretty fast and I was surprised that it could hold its body in midair for a few seconds during the crossing as demonstrated in this photo.

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| F8, 1/20s, ISO 400, Fill Flash |

#9 – Rob and Fly

Robber flies are also called assassin flies.  They are impressive predators that specialize in hunting almost all flying insects including this poor long-legged fly.  They have always been my favourite subjects but I have not shot them with prey for a fairly long time.  Glad to add this one in my collection.

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| F8, 1/15s, ISO 400, Fill Flash |

#10 – Luminuous Mushrooms

This a just an ordinary photo of a small cluster of luminuous mushrooms known as Mycena manipularis.   I have included here as it has been on my shooting wishlist since 2009!

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| F16, 30s, ISO 400, natural light |

That’s all folks!

Macro Outings : July to December 2016

Due to work and family commitments, I was less active in macro photography in the 2nd half of 2016.  Although I visited a few macro sites during this period, I just couldn’t find the time to write about it until today.  Here are some highlights:

Gaharu Forest (2 July 2016)

It is a narrow nature trail that will lead all the way to Bukit Timah Visitor Centre.  This place is popular with trekkers, cyclists and nature lovers especially during weekends.

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(Mating Ladybirds)

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(Unity is Strength!)

Zhenghua Forest (13 August 2016)

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(Moulting Leaf-footed bug)

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(Leaf-footed bug nymph)

During Loop (13 September 2016)

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(Beetle & Mushrooms)

Segar Nature Trail (17 September 2016)

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(Katydid nymph & flowers)

Bekok Recreation Foresst, Malaysia (27 August 2016)

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(Mating Robberflies)

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(Black Spotted Rock Frogs)

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(Heliocypha perforate, females)

Panti Recreation Forest, Malaysia (24 September 2016)

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(Robberfly with prey)

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(Robberfly with prey)

Holland Woods (8 October 2016)

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(Lynx Spider vs Leaf Hopper)

 

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(Lynx Spider vs Leaf Hopper)

Venus Drive (5 November 2016)

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(Luminous Mushrooms, Mycena manipularis)

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(Luminous Mushrooms)

Old Ford Factory (26 November 2016)

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(Spider with prey)

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(Mushrooms Crossing)

That’s all folks!  Looking forward to a fruitful year in 2017!

Macro Outing : 1st Quarter of 2016

There were very little photographic activities in the first quarter of 2016.  I injured my back early this year which took more than 8 weeks for me to completely recuperate from the pains.  I could visit only two macro sites, one at Zhenghua Forest before I hurt myself and a night shoot at Chestnut Nature Trail after I recovered from it.

At Zhenghua Forest, there were many different species of grasshoppers.  Hence, I was not surprised to find these two friendly ones resting happily on the same dewy perch.

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(Zhenghua Forest, 16 January 2016)

But I was certainly amazed to find three giant millipedes doing some kind of business together. Were they Mating? And why three of them? After about 15 minutes or so, each went their separate way.

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(Three Giant Millipedes)

It is not uncommon to see moulting of leaf-footed bugs as there were so many of them here.  The nice colour contrast of this image is really pleasing to the eyes.


Not too sure about ID of this wild flower but they are attractive to me especially when filled with morning dew.

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(Wild flower)

Night macro photography is not really my specialty but occasionally I would join my friends like this one at Chestnut Nature Trail on 25 March 2016. At night, you would come across different insects that you use to see during the day such as stick insects which only come out at night to feed. We found 2 different species:

Stick insects

(Stick Insects)

Someone spotted a moth’s caterpillar in a pupating position and a green chrysalis probably belongs to one of the butterflies from the Baron’s family.

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(Caterpillar & Chrysalis)

A pair of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug was found high up on a leave. Always a challenge to shoot subjects above eye level.

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(Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs)

The catch of the night was this photogenic Oriental Whip Snake.  This was a juvenile about a metre long.  Adults can grow up to 2 metre and in almost fluorescent green colour.  It was my first time seeing a light brown oriental whip snake.

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(Juvenile Oriental Whip Snake)

It was already 1.20 am when we called it a night!

Macro Photography Outings – November 2015

The haze season was finally over!  There were more rain showers in November which was good to hunt for fungi and wild mushrooms.  I found many of them at Zhenghua Forest, Kampong Chantek Nature Trail, Venus Drive and Sembawang Forest, a new macro site introduced to us by Endy.

These orange mushrooms appear to glow when a LED light was placed behind them.  My first sighting of such unique species found on a rotten tree trunk at Venus Drive.

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(221115 – Venus Drive)

Another group of rare fungi was found at Kampong Chantek Nature Trail. It has a very thin stalk with a tiny cap of about 2 mm.

(221115 - Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

(221115 – Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

A cluster of small mushrooms was also spotted here.

(221115 - Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

(221115 – Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

On November 28, Endy led us to a forested area near Sembawang. It is believed to be the last greenery from the early Malay settlement. We found quite a number of mushroom species at Sembawang Park, our meeting point.

(Kyaw Htay in action)

(Kyaw Htay in action)

This cluster looks gorgeous against the morning light.

(281115 - Sembawang Forest)

(281115 – Sembawang Forest)

These two sets of mushrooms looks interesting too. Are they of the same species?

(281115 - Sembawang Forest)

(281115 – Sembawang Forest)

From here, we walked about 200 metres cutting across some private residential houses to arrive at our new macro site.

(Our new macro site)

(Our new macro site)

Subjects spotted include various species of spiders, grasshoppers, katydids, changeable lizards, frog, mangrove crabs, dragonflies, moth, caterpillar, etc. My favourite image from this trip is a spider resting on a branch of backlit leaves.

(221115 - Sembawang Forest)

(281115 – Sembawang Forest)

Although I have been to Zhenghua Forest many times in the past 2 years, it never fails to excite me. There are always surprises and new discoveries. Here is a common leaf beetles sandwiched between two dewdrops.

(081115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(081115 – Zhenghua Forest)

Two months ago, I spotted for the first time, 15 leaf-footed baby bugs with their newly hatched egg shells nearby. This time there was only a lone baby next to 1 hatched and 7 un-hatched eggs. Now I know that freshly born babies are red in colour. They will change to black within an hour or so.

(301115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(301115 – Zhenghua Forest)

This is a big group of 14 babies that were already turned into black colour and abandoned their egg shells.

(151115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(151115 – Zhenghua Forest)

I mentioned in my earlier posts that leaf-footed bugs often vary in coloration between their 5 moults. Based on my observation, the colour of freshly moulted individual tends to have a mixture of purplish orange during their earlier moults but more towards pink when they moult in the later stage as shown in this image.

(081115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(081115 – Zhenghua Forest)

Zhenghua Forest is also a good location to find mushrooms. This should be a Mycenoporella species.

(081115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(081115 – Zhenghua Forest)

This is a large cluster of tiny mushrooms about 3 mm in size growing on a dead twig. Not sure about this species but their gills are beautiful when examined up close.

(081115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(081115 – Zhenghua Forest)

One of my wish list is to get a shot of 2 pairs of mating leaf beetles in a single frame which is not impossible as it is common to find a few pairs in the early morning at Zhenghua Forest. I have no luck so far but this image of two mating species upon the same perch is something beyond my imagination. I first spotted the mating beetles but they flew off when I tried to get too close. It was a blessing in disguise as they landed on a leaf where a pair of grasshoppers were also having a private affair, some 3 metres away. The grasshoppers didn’t bother by the intrusion, it was the beetle pair that was a little uncomfortable where they moved and paused along the perch and sometimes moving under it. I was fortunate to get some decent shots before the beetles flew away again.

(301115 - Zhenghua Forest)

(301115 – Zhenghua Forest)

This is certainly a superb moment of insect shot to end another fruitful month of macro photography!

Macro Photography Outings – October 2015

The hazy condition persisted in October but there were more days with good quality air particularly towards the end of the month. I was able to venture out once a week visiting 4 different macro sites.

On 4 October, I dropped by Kampong Chantek Nature Trail.  This was my 2nd visit since 22 August 2015.  Possibly due to the prolonged unhealthy air condition, I couldn’t find any interesting bugs and insects. However, I had no complaints as I found some really appetising wild mushrooms!  Here are 2 mushrooms which looked ordinary from the our naked eyes but when a small LED light was placed behind it, the lighting created a nice contrast, brought out the details and enhanced how delicate these mushrooms are.  Nian Huei commented that it reminds him of a parasol!

(Backlit Wild Mushrooms)

(041015 – Backlit Wild Mushrooms)

As I moved further into the forest, a bigger cluster was spotted on a dead log.

(A cluster of mushrooms)

(041015 – A cluster of mushrooms)

This was a similar cluster nearby and I prefer this bottom up view revealing the beautiful underside of these mushrooms.

(Bottom up view)

(041015 – Bottom up view)

Whenever my friends are not available to join me and I have to shoot alone, I choose to visit Zhenghua Forest as it is not far from my house and it is relatively safer to photograph here. It is also an excellent site to take insects with water droplets such as this adult katydid and a nymph sharing a dewy perch.

(24 Oct 2015 - Katydid, adult & nymph)

(251015 – Katydid, adult & nymph)

Two bigger dew drops with a young katydid caught my attention and I decided to do a close-up shot.

(A dewy katydid nymph)

(111015 – A dewy katydid nymph)

It was a great day to show affection to your love ones as exhibited by these brightly coloured cotton stainer bugs.

(241015 - Mating cotton stainer bugs)

(251015 – Mating cotton stainer bugs)

How about offering your partner a lovely flower that she could not refuse.

(241015 - Mating grasshoppers)

(251015 – Mating grasshoppers)

Leaf-footed bugs go through five moults before becoming an adult. They are most vulnerable during the actual moulting which usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes. This was my first time witnessing a failed moulting disrupted by a predator, the lynx spider. An unusual moment of natural history.

(251015 - Failed moulting)

(251015 – Failed moulting)

On 17 October, Endy brought us to a new macro site at Kent Ridge Park. The main shooting ground was around a pond where different plants grow along the edge.

(171015 - A pond at Kent Ridge Park)

(171015 – A pond at Kent Ridge Park)

Dragonflies and damselflies are aquatic insects and naturally there were lots of them here.

(Female Common Parasol & Immature Variable Wisp)

(171015 – Female Common Parasol & Immature Female Variable Wisp)

Spiders were plentiful too such as this multi-coloured St. Andrew’s Cross Spider having a leaf hopper as breakfast.

(Multi-coloured St. Andrew's Cross Spider)

(171015 – Multi-coloured St. Andrew’s Cross Spider)

But I was most happy when someone spotted a shield bug. This was an adult Pycanum rubens of about 3 cm long.

(An adult shield bug)

(171015 – An adult shield bug)

It was really great to find two beautiful red nymphs on a young Simpoh air, their host plant, as I had not seen them since November 2011!

(Red shield bug nymps)

(171015 – Red shield bug nymphs)

On 31 October, it was my turn to lead a macro photography outing on behalf of Nature Photographic Society, Singapore. Click HERE to read the trip report.

In summary, it was another fruitful month of macro photography.

Macro Photography Outings – August 2015

I visited only three macro sites in August namely, the Green Corridor, Kampong Chantek Nature Trail and Pasir Ris Park.

The Green Corridor is an uninterrupted stretch of greenery that runs the entire length of Singapore, from the old Tanjong Pagar Rail Station in the south to the border of Malaysia in the north!    We covered only a small part of the Green Corridor ie. starting from the Rail Mall and explored towards Bukit Timah Train Station.

The most prominent landmark at the Rail Mall area has to be the black railway truss bridge. Many Singaporeans come here during weekend for some photographs with the bridge.

(The black )

(The black railway truss bridge)

With greenery on both side of the path, this is an excellent trail for walking, cycling and at the same time serving as a wildlife corridor.

(Macro photographers in action)

(Macro photographers in action)

There were quite a number of wild flowers found at the site such as this pair of beautiful Lavender Sorrels (Oxalis barrelieri).

(Wild flowers)

(Lavender Sorrels in backlighting)

White Weed (Ageratum conyzoides) flowers are plentiful too, attracting many tiny Lesser Grass Blue butterflies to feed on them.

(Butterfly feeding on white weed flower)

(Butterfly feeding on white weed flower)

Kampong Chantek used to be a Malay village existed near the former Turf Club along Bukit Timah Road. It is now a nature trail where people, mainly from the nearby private residential area, would come here during weekend for a morning walk or hiking. The start of the trail is at the end of the long Jalan Kampong Chantek road in front of Murnane Service Reservior.

(Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

(Kampong Chantek Nature Trail)

The first subject that greeted us was a bright green katydid. It stands out when shooting against a dark background with backlighting.

(Bright green katydid)

(Bright green katydid)

Just a metre away, there was another katydid, the most colourful one that I have seen so far.

(A colourful katydid)

(A colourful katydid)

I can’t help but to take a frontal shot of this beautiful katydid as well.  Unlike other common katydids, the eyes and legs are turquoise in colour.

(Frontal view of a colourful katydid)

(Frontal view of a colourful katydid)

Tree-stump spiders (Poltys illepidus) are not easily spotted during the day as they would remain motionless with the legs drawn tightly close to the body with just the eyes protruding between the legs. In this position they resemble part of a dead twig or a broken piece of wood hanging in the centre of a vertical web. I was fortunate to find one here, my first sighting of such a unique spider.

(Tree-stump spider)

(Tree-stump spider)

Kampong Chantek is a good site to find wild mushrooms during the wet days. There were hundreds of them sprouting almost everywhere when my friends visited the place a week before. Although most of them had dried out, we still managed to find a few interesting ones.

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

(Close-up shot)

(Close-up shot)

Our star of the day got to be this group of yellow fungi that look a little like stalactites in cave! They were found underneath a fallen tree trunk which was quite a challenge to photograph. I had to lie very low on the ground only to take this record shot.

(Yellow fungi)

(Yellow fungi)

A visit to Pasir Ris Park on 29 August was a forgettable trip for me. It was windy and I couldn’t find any subjects interesting enough to photograph. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the good company of my regular macro kakis.

(Nian Huei & Samuel in action @ Pasir Ris Park)

(Nian Huei & Samuel in action @ Pasir Ris Park)

Hopefully, my macro outings in September would be more fruitful.