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.

img_9502

| 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?

img_9568

| 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.

IMG_2976

| 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 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 – March 2015

The warm and dry weather continued in March 2015. From my experience, insects and bugs are more difficult to find in such weather. Hence, I decided to have fewer outings this month.

(1) Zhenghua Forest

My past outings to Zhenghua forest have always been very fruitful but it was not the case this time. I have only two images to share:

(A pair of leaf-footed bug nymph)

(15 March 2015 – A pair of leaf-footed bug nymphs)

(Leaf-footd buy nymph)

(15 March 2015 – Leaf-footd buy nymph)

(2) Pasir Ris Park

Pasir Ris Park is a charming and tranquil place for families to have a fun day out. For macro photographers, there is a garden near the public car park C where we could spend an hour or two finding insects and bugs.

(21 Mar 2015 - A garden at Pasir Ris Park)

(21 Mar 2015 – A garden at Pasir Ris Park)

There were quite a no. of butterfly species but most flew non-stop. I prefer to photograph this unique shield bug nymph, a species that I have never seen it before. I hope someone can help me to ID it.

(21 Mar 2015 - unknown shield bug nymph)

(21 Mar 2015 – unknown shield bug nymph)

(3) Green Corridor

I joined Endy to recce a small section of the Green Corridor which he wanted to lead an outing there for Nature Photographic Society, Singapore. 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 parked along the road at King Albert Park and walked towards an old, black iron railway bridge from Bukit Timah Road.

(An old black railway bridge)

(An old, black railway bridge)

Once on the track, we walked another 100 metres towards the right and the popular old Bukit Timah Railway Station (now a conserved recreational building) was in sight.

(Bukit Timah Railway Station)

(28 Mar 2015 – Bukit Timah Railway Station)

The walking path is wide and flat with nice greenery on both sides which is soothing to the eyes.

(A wide and flat walking path)

(28 Mar 2015 – A wide and flat walking path)

I found a pair of fruit flies having some intimate moments. They were tiny and I had to use a 1.4 Tele-converter to get this shot.

(Mating Fruit Flies)

(28 Mar 2015 – Mating Fruit Flies)

The other only decent shot that I have is a praying mating hiding behind a yellow flower.

(Praying Mantis)

(28 Mar 2015 – Praying Mantis)

(4) Jurong Woods

There is a huge piece of wasteland along Jurong Road which I named it as “Jurong Woods”. I used to visit this place fairly often in 2010 & 2011 but stopped doing so as the stray dogs population grew. After a 4 years break, I decided to drop by to take a look. To my surprise, there is a small farm, probably created and maintained by HDB residents nearby either from Jurong East or Bukit Batok.

(A mini farm)

(29 Mar 2015 – A mini farm)

I spotted a small patch of attractive Bidens Pilosa flowers and I was confident to find white crab spiders here. A small lynx spider was found resting quietly on one of the petals instead.

( A small lynx spider)

(29 Mar 2015 – A small lynx spider)

It was very cooperative allowing me to take a close-up shot.

(Lynx spider close-up)

(29 Mar 2015 – Lynx spider close-up)

The Wild Side of Singapore!

Singapore is better known as a modernised city with first class skyscrapers and shopping malls but not many people are aware that we have a surprisingly diverse wildlife as well. Here are two short videos that I produced in 2013 showing some of the beautiful creatures that can be found in our limited forests and parks.

I hope to make Episode 3 in the near future.

19/2014 – Zhenghua Forest (12 April & 3 May 2014)

Cicadas are often said to be seasonal. In Japan, they emerge from the ground to sing every summer. Javanese uses cicadas sound as an indicator of the beginning of dry season i.e April–May. Similarly, Cicada sounds are a defining quality of Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra during late spring and the summer months.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I witnessed the moulting of the Black & Golden Cicadas in April 2013. As we wanted to see them again this year, my friends and I decided to try our luck at Zhenghua forest on April 12 and May 3.

The weather looked fine when we reached Zhenghua forest in the morning of April 12. However, after less than an hour of shooting, it started to drizzle and continued raining lightly for the next few hours. We didn’t have the opportunity to check out the Black & Golden cicadas which are usually found deeper into the forest trail. I have only 2 decent shots in that morning. Here is a shield bug hiding behind a leaf. This was the 2nd time that I found this uncommon bug in this area.

(Shield Bug)

(Shield Bug)

Although Katydid nymphs are fairly common in Singapore, the interesting perch prompted me to take this shot.

(Katydid Nymph)

(Katydid Nymph)

The weather was much better on 3 May 2014. I was greeted by a pretty grasshopper soaked in morning dews. It was staring at him with curious eyes.

(Grasshopper with morning dews)

(Grasshopper with morning dews)

But it became shy and slowly turned its head away giving me an opportunity to take a classic side view shot.

IMG_3762

This is a good site to shoot St Andrew Cross Spiders and I have never failed to spot at least one of them here.

((St Andrew Cross Spider)

((St Andrew Cross Spider)

Endy found a pair of mating Leaf Beetles and alerted me. The left image was shot with fill flash while the dark blackground on the right was taken using the full power of the flash. Personally, I find the green background looks nicer. What do you think?

(Fill flash vs full fresh)

(Fill flash vs full fresh)

Another pair of bugs were having a good time nearby. This is known as Sugarcane Red Bugs.

(Please let me know if you know the ID of these bugs?

(Sugarcane Red Bug / Phaenacantha saccharicida)

It appeared that it was a good day for mating as I saw this time a pair of mating Leaf-footed bugs.

(Mating squash bugs)

(Leaf-footed bugs / Homoeocerus marginellus)

As I was about to leave to explore further into the forest, a beautiful pink coloured fruit caught my attention.

(White Mulberry)

(White Mulberry)

It is known as White Mulberry (Morus alba), which is a species native to northern China. I read that White mulberry is an herb where their powdered leaves are most commonly used for medicine. They are often tried for treating diabetes, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, etc. The fruit can be used for food, either raw or cooked. I recalled eating these wild fruits during my childhood years. It tastes sour if I remember correctly.

So did we find the rare Black & Golden cicadas this time? Unfortunately, no! We did not manage to find even a single cicada’s skeleton at the same spots where we found them last year! The sighting of a Sunda flying lemur however, offer a little consolation of our visit here. Hazel was particularly delighted as she had never seen a flying lemur in the wild before this trip.

(Sunda flying lemur)

(Sunda flying lemur)