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!

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Macro Photography Outings – July 2015

The weather in July was still hot but it was a relieve to have occasional showers here and there.  I joined an intertidal outing in the east, visited a new macro site at Sultan Trail, explored Dairy Farm Nature Park twice and led a night cum day macro photography outing at Zhenghua Forest.

We didn’t take a lot of pictures during the intertidal outing on 4 July as the rain poured heavily earlier than expected.  Here is a candid shot of us in action.

(Intertidal outing on 4 July 2015)

(Photo Credit : Endy)

Sadly, this transparent shrimp living on a beautiful carpet anemone is the only presentable shot that I have from this outing.

(Shrime on seagrass)

(Shrime on Carpet Anemone)

The rain stopped at about 10 am and we decided to drop by Pasir Ris Park for a 2nd round macro shoot. We were fortunate to find a delicated parent of Olive-backed Sunbirds taking turns feeding their two chicks.

(Feeding at Pasir Ris Park)

(Olive-backed Sunbird feeding its babies at Pasir Ris Park)

A week later, we explored an abandoned mansion once belonging to a Sultan of Johor. It was hidden in the mass of vegetation between Holland Road and Tyersall Avenue. The mansion was built in the late 19th century and it was subsequently used as General’s headquarters and a military hospital. In 1942, about 700 medics and patients were killed by the bombing of the Japanese.

(The grand mansion in the background)

(The grand mansion in the background)

There were stories about the eerie mansion but with a big group of nature photographers, what was there to be afraid of.

(Photo Credit : Sharon S Lim)

(Photo Credit : Sharon S Lim)

Many spiders were spotted in this deserted place but I was most delighted when Teck Leong shared with me a tiny lynx spider having a brightly coloured red hopper as breakfast.

(Lynx spider & red hopper)

(Lynx spider & red hopper)

I had to leave early for work and here are a few images that I managed to photograph:

(Wild flowers, skipper & praying mantis)

(Wild flowers, skipper & praying mantis)

Citron Bug, scientifically known as Leptoglossus gonagra, is a member of the Leaf-footed bug family. I was fortunate to find an adult with two nymphs at Dairy Farm Nature Park.

(Citron bug nymphs)

(Citron bug nymphs)

They would use their strawlike beak to suck a plant’s internal juices. They seem to like feasting on wild bitter gourds.

(Adult & nymph)

(Adult & nymph)

Other subjects spotted include a planthopper and a relatively rare Grass Demon.

(Planthopper & Grass Demon)

(Planthopper & Grass Demon)

And it was nice to see a praying mantis covered with morning dew.

(A dewy praying mantis)

(A dewy praying mantis)

But I was most excited to witness a busy scene involving a female crab spider having a bee as breakfast, 2 male spiders fighting for the right to mate with the female, while many busybody flies wanted to have a share of the breakfast. Certainly quite a behaviour shot that is hard to duplicate, my favourite image taken this month.

(A busy scene)

(A busy scene)

July 18 was my turn to lead macro photography outing for Nature Photography Society of Singapore and I chose my favourite macro site at Zhenghua Forest. A day before the outing, Allan, Sharon & I decided to meet earlier to do night macro. We invited those who signed for the day shoot to join us. Rajesh, Sia, Loh, Henry & Dion gamely took on the challenge. Eight of us met at the 24-hr Jin Shan (JSL) coffee shop at 3.30 am for some hot drinks before we commenced our night photography at 4.00 am.

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

With the aid of a good UV LED touch light, we found more than 20 Lesser brown Scorpions! Most of them were lying motionlessly on tree trunks or dried leaves. We were lucky to find a mother having many young babies on its back.

(Lesser Brown Scorpion with babies)

(Lesser Brown Scorpion with babies)

Another interesting subject that caught our attention was a rare House Centipede (Thereuopoda longicornis). They are usually found in the forest in Singapore. They have a pair of long antennae, 15 pairs of very long legs, and are the only group of centipedes with large compound eyes. Looking at the way it ran from one place to another, they must be very fast hunters. Not an easy subject to photograph and I could only manage this record shot.

(A skittish house centipede)

(A skittish house centipede)

All of us were so busy shooting that we forgot about our originally plan was to stop the night macro by 6.30 am. Like small children, we played until forgot to eat! Suddenly it rained at 6.35 am. I like the way Loh’s put it: “The guy in heaven decided to sprinkled some waters to chase us to take breakfast”. So here we were back at JSL for a well deserved breakfast before we got ready for Part II’s day shoot.

(Breakfast at Jin Shan Lin Coffee Shop)

(Breakfast at Jin Shan Lin Coffee Shop)

As we entered the green vegetation of Zhenghua Forest, we found a lovely pair of orange leaf beetles enjoying their most intimate moment. We discovered later that there were more than 5 pairs doing the same thing around the vicinity! July could be a mating season for these adorable little creatures.

(Mating Leaf Beetles)

(Mating Leaf Beetles)

Not too far away, a pair of grasshoppers were also having a good time!

(Mating grasshoppers)

(Mating grasshoppers)

A good number of Leaf-footed bugs were sighted in the early morning with their exoskeletons next to them. They must had moulted only a short while ago.

(An already moulted Leaf-footed bug)

(An already moulted Leaf-footed bug)

At about 9.30 am when the sun was getting too hot, we moved into the forested area where we spotted a giant black scorpion crossing the walking path. This should be a Asian Forest Scorpion (Heterometrus longimanus) measuring about 12 – 15 cm. It is uncommon in Singapore where it is restricted to the nature reserves. We were extremely lucky to see this one under the broad daylight!

(Asian Forest Scorpion)

(Asian Forest Scorpion)

There were a handful of wild mushrooms on the forest floor. Most were spotted on fallen logs but these 3 little ones were found on a dead leaf. A LED light was placed on top to give them a glowing effect.

(Wild mushrooms)

(Wild mushrooms)

These tiny ones are equally eye-catching.

(More wild mushrooms)

(Tiny wild mushrooms)

Here are some images showing our photographers in action to conclude this fruitful and fun outing!

(Photographers in action)

(Photographers in action)

Macro Photography Outings – May 2015

May seems to be a good month to spot spiders as I had photographed many of them at 3 different locations namely Jurong Woods, Upper Seletar Reservior & Dairy Farm Nature Park. A few of them were rare or uncommon species such as the Mirror Spider (Thwaitesia sp.), Pear-shaped Leucauge (Opadometa fastigata) & Brown Grass Spider (Polyboea vulpine).

Mirror Spider is an attractive species where it has reflective silvery patches on its abdomen. The scales look like solid pieces of mirror glued on the spider’s back where they could change size depending on how threatened the spider feels.

(Mirror Spider, Dairy Farm Nature Park, 15 May 2015)

(Mirror Spider, Dairy Farm Nature Park, 15 May 2015)

Here is a frontal shot which looks very lady-like to me.

(Front view of Mirror Spider)

(Front view of Mirror Spider)

Interestingly, when looking from the dorsal view, the colourful mirror scales suddenly disappeared as shown below:

(Dorsal view of Mirror Spider)

(Dorsal view of Mirror Spider)

Pear-shaped Leucauge Spider, scientifically known as Opadometa fastigata, was another unusual find in May 2015. This relatively large species is separated from other Leucauge spiders in Singapore by its pear-shaped abdomen and its unique fourth leg where it has thick brush of spines at the tibia. The colour of the abdomen is black with silver white marks.

(Pear-Shaped Leucauge, Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

(Pear-Shaped Leucauge, Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

Brown Grass Spider (Polyboea vulpine) looks a little like the common lynx spider to me. They are special in the area where they build complicated, three-dimensional webs commonly known as the nursery web. The females carry their spherical egg-sacs under the jaws.

(Brown Grass Spider, Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

(Brown Grass Spider, Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

The common spiders spotted this month include the Big-Bellied Tylorida, Jumping Spider, Golden Orb-Web Spider, Lynx Spider & Crab Spider.

This is a same Big-bellied Tylorida, one photographed with backlighting while the other was shot with normal side lighting. Which is better?

(Big-bellied spider, Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

(Big-bellied Tylorida, Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

Jumping spider always make a good photo because of its attractive big round eyes. I was lucky to find this cute little jumping spider which was unusually cooperative. Isn’t it adorable?

(Jumping Spider, Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

(Jumping Spider, Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

Females of Golden Orb-web Spider are easier to spot in the wild than the males because of its large size ie it can grow up to 20 cm. The male is only about 5-6 mm, so much tinier than the female.

(Golden Web spider, male, Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

(Golden Orb-web spider, male, Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

Spanish Needle flowers (Bidens Pilosa) were in season as I have seen so many of them at different places since April 2015. These wild flowers are popular hiding spots for crab spiders to ambush their preys. I sighted 3 crab spiders with preys at Jurong Woods on 9 May 2015. Looking at so many bees and common flies became preys of spiders, I have to agree with my friend’s observation that they are indeed careless!

(3 different crab spiders with preys)

(3 different crab spiders with preys)

Lynx spider is one of most formidable predators in the insect world! This time it took on an equally fearful opponent, a male big-jawed spider and won the battle!

(Dairy Farm Nature Park, 15 May 2015)

(Dairy Farm Nature Park, 15 May 2015)

Damselflies are one of my favourite subjects but I have not been photographed them for quite a long time. So it was nice to find a female Will-o-wisp, an uncommon damselfly species at Upper Seletar Reservior Park.

(Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 15 May 2015)

(Upper Seletar Reservior Park, 16 May 2015)

The old 2-km Kranji Nature Trail is now renamed as Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension which had officially opened to the public a few months ago. Kyaw & I went there to take a look on 17 May 2015. We stayed only for a short while as it was too crowded with many senior citizens enjoy a casual nature walk. A white and black plant hoppers was the only decent shot that I had from that morning.

(Kranji Nature Park, 17 May 2015)

(Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Extension, 17 May 2015)

Here is a image of a pair of attractive flowers known as Singapore Cherry (Muntingia calabura) to end another fruitful month of macro photography.

(Jurong Woods)

(Singapore Cherry, Jurong Woods, 9 May 2015)