Behind the Scenes

Surrounded by a motley crew, the bird was a little edgy. I waited until most left. With only another photographer left, the Hooded Pitta was more relaxed and I moved to a better background. As the bird was not moving much, I was able to stop down the aperture for better feather details [Jurong HDB, 2023].

Take your Chance. We chanced upon nesting Banded Kingfishers but the access for a good shot was just a limited window and it was on a more than a 30 degree slope. The birds had a lot more branches to perch in the vicinity and it was visible from the road. Many Thai photographers were stationed on the road but the background was messy. Where I was, I can only hope that the parents perched on the one branch that my camera was focused on and the background was clean. They returned every 15 – 30 minutes. Every minute I was slipping down the slope and it was most uncomfortable. I removed my belt and buckled it to the nearest branch. There were not many times the birds landed near me but when they did, I could only hold my breadth. My back ached terribly after the shoot but a massage was just what I needed. [Khao Yai National Park, 2012]

Rock climbing sans ropes. Robber Crab was climbing down vertical cliff which loomed 30m over the sea. Despite being a huge heavy weight, it was able to use its legs to grasps the crevices at the rock walls as it made its slow descent to the sea to lay eggs. So it also follows the millions of red crabs and blue crabs during the annual migration. It was amazing that I saw a group of more than 30 in one area during one outing. They have a keen sense of smell and we nearly lost all our food at a beach. [Christmas Island, 2004]

Bizarre ways of nature. Most divers will have no problems with this identification. Like a fern with fronds but the “fronds” or arms moved towards the centre especially when light was shone on it as though the arms were shielding the light towards the centre (mouth). Suddenly the “flower” glided over the sea bottom. It seemed bizarre initially; but then I realized that it was a feather star – recollections of images seen in books. [taken at low tide at Beting Bronok, 2003]

Peeing apple. As round as a red apple, this Sea cucumber (aptly named Sea Apple) was ejecting water from its butt. I was lucky as I was admiring this uncommon creature for some time and whilst taking a few frames of it, it sprouted water. This image also appeared in the coffee-table book “To Singapore with Love” page 255. [Chek Jawa, 2003]

Stealth Bomber. Aerodynamically designed, this hawk moth is a fast flier and perhaps provided the inspiration to Stealth bomber design. Many moths were attracted to the room and street lights at the mountain resort where we were staying. In the morning, many would have lost their sense of direction and fallen to the ground. This attracted birds the next morning as they feasted on them [Kinabalu Park]

King of moths. The largest moth in the world, the Atlas moth face-on gives a new perspective. The feathery antennae becomes the main focus. Since it was so large, it metamorphed during the night as it awaited through the morning to dry its wings. Perfect time for photography. [Sepilok]

Mother and Child-no reunion. A poacher drove his motorboat in a threatening manner towards a family of swimming Proboscis monkeys and the juvenile was cruelly separated from its mother. I offered money for its release but the new owner was adamant. I knew somewhat that this juvenile will not survive long. I could hear the mother wailing for hours. The image of this monkey still haunts me. Wished I could have done better [Klias Peninsula]

Good night. A Bornean-banded Pitta was peacefully asleep with its head beneath its wing. It was perched on a small branch at chest level perhaps to avoid snakes and other animals whose presence may cause the branch to move or vibrate. I have not seen such brilliant colours and never at such close-up. And it was so tempting to capture such an exquisite bird. The bird was left to continue its slumber. [Danum Valley, Sabah]

An Enigma. It was twilight time as we gathered to trek along a forest stream. We heard some splashing sounds and our guide told us it was fishes. Hundreds of fishes congregated as it on command to mate. Our guides caught a few and as soon as they appeared, they also vanished without a trace. How they knew when to meet still foxes me today. It must been the correct water temperature or some hormones dispersed along the waters that commanded them to meet at the precise spot. The mystery remains. [Danum Valley, Sabah]

Only a fish can see this. It was one of the rare occasions when I carried a Nikon Fish-eye lens to the forest (it weighed more than a kilo!). Actually there were twin Rafflesia pricei but one was damaged; probably eaten by a rodent (part of it can be seen on the right).. It was during such an occasion when the lens was put to good use. I was able to single out the undamaged flower with the fish-eye lens. Unfortunately it was difficult stabilizing the lens as the ground was on a 30 degree incline. My other photographer had to recover his camera equipment from the ravine [Tambunan, Sabah]

Halloween. The caterpillar reacted when the flashes blew off. It turned towards me perhaps snarling, the macabre face resembled a skull and with the adornments on its head, it appeared like masked Balinese dancer strutting about. I wonder if birds have a chance to look at its face before attempting to devour it. Perhaps it is sometimes better not to see what we eat. [Upper Pierce Reservoir]

Total Darkness. At 6.20pm darkness had creeped in the forest and we were packing to go but were excited when the presence of the Blue Banded Pitta was detected nearby. The camera refused to focus as it was too dark. Only way was to resort to manual focus and leave it to chance. ISO was sky high and I tried to reduce it by using slower speeds. Luckily the bird stood still for some moments. Left was image in camera,; right was the processed image [Tawau, Sabah Aug 2023]

Keeping Alert. After 8.5 hours of waiting, the Bornean Peacock Pheasant (female) appeared very silently. It was also well camouflaged, very much unlike the male. All were fatigued or bored. My guide was sleeping. Hide owner was looking at his phone. My other companions were on the computer or phone. The minute they realized its presence, the slight camera movements sent it scurrying [Telupid, Sabah, 2023]