6:00 am. The birds have yet to start their morning song but I’m already all set to head out to Singapore Botanic Gardens. With today’s photo-shoot outing, I can finally put the Nature Macro Photography course assignment behind. I really can’t wait!
Took up the macro photography course in March and kinda regretted it. This mode of photography is just too much hard work! Shooting nature in macro is really a test of skill and a lot of patience. And that’s not even adding on the cost of specialized equipments such as a macro lens, extension tube, remote control, reflector, and a sturdy tripod. Can’t afford the full set of specialized equipments, I invested only in a Kenko extension tube (S$195) which is basically a set of rings to be attached between the lens and camera body.
Compared to an actual macro lens, focusing with the extension tube is more difficult and somehow, the photos aren’t as sharp (borrowed a friend’s 90mm marco lens to try today and can tell the difference in ease of use and image quality compared to my earlier shots taken with extension tubes).
The submission for my assignment is this coming Thursday and I’ve yet to select my 6 photos because most of them would be too pixilated when printed in 8R. Moreover, my shots are nondescript in subject matter and kinda boring. Hopefully I can pass the strict eyes of the instructor.
Anyway, here’s to share the places I went to for the macro shoots and may it be of help for those of you interested in Nature Macro Photography, or just to spend a morning or day with the jewels of Mother Nature.
Address : HortPark, 33 Hyderabad Road (off Alexandra Road)
Opening Hours : 9:00 am – 11:00 am (every last Saturday of the month)
Entrance Fee : Free
Found within the premises of HortPark, the butterfly enclosure is open only once every month for 2 hours only. To confirm the enclosure’s opening, call HortPark’s Visitor Services at 6471 5601.
Due to its limited visiting schedule, expect to see quite a crowd there. And it doesn’t help that the conservatory is very small so you’ll have to jostle for space for some serious photo-taking. But frame and take your shots quickly because you’ll be asked to leave once you’ve stayed there for a while. To take my shots, I entered and exited the enclosure 4 times.
There are quite a few species of butterflies there but most notably would be the large, white-winged Paper Kites. The other common butterfly would be the Lacewings. The big butterflies are pretty stationary so it is possible to get great shots of them
Caterpillars, larvae and butterfly eggs can also be found if you look closely enough amongst the plants. The enclosures volunteer curators are also helpful in pointing them out and giving some brief facts about the butterfly species.
The place is very well-kept, neat and well-landscaped. It is a really nice place to bring kids and get up-close and personal with the gentle wings, but don’t encourage them to touch the butterflies. Saw a parent stroke a butterfly’s wing in front of his kid and the next thing you know, the child reached out and grabbed the poor insect!
Address : 14A, Bah Soon Pah Road (near Yishun)
Opening Hours : 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily
Entrance Fee : S$3.00 for the Oh Farm Butterfly Lodge
Another place to photograph butterflies easily is the Oh Farm. Located off a slip road between an army camp and the Yishun Bottle Tree Park, the Oh Chin Huat Hydroponics Farm has a small butterfly enclosure tucked in corner within its premises.
It looked more like a forgotten garden in someone’s backyard than something that’s worth S$3.00 to see. The place was not well-kept with could-be beautiful plants gone stray, and the neglect in landscaping was awfully apparent.
But thankfully, the butterflies found here were varied enough and you can take your time to set up your shots for macro-ing them. However, the lighting condition wasn’t too ideal as only half the lodge gets the morning sun while the other half seemed perpetually shadowed. So it is useful to bring along a reflector to bounce light onto a butterfly subject.
Again, the Paper Kites and Lacewings are common here, but I also saw Monarch butterflies and a couple of other species I’ve yet to learn their names. For photography enthusiasts, this place has good potential for macro shots; but for a leisurely visit, I would give it a miss.
Address : 200, Mandai Lake Road (before Mandai Zoo)
Opening Hours : 8:00 am – 6:00 pm daily
Entrance Fee : Adult – S$3.50, Senior Citizen – S$1.50, Child – S$1.00
I heard that the Mandai Orchid Garden is going to close soon. I hope this rumour is untrue because it seemed quite a waste to close an interesting place like this.
It may not be as well-manicured as some of the specialty gardens in Singapore, but I personally found it quite charming both for photography and also a day trip for the family.
It has got quite a lot of plant species, a herbs and spices garden, a delightful spread of Torch Gingers, a pond filled with dragonflies and of course, rows of orchids.
I didn’t manage to cover the whole place when we had our photo outing there and stayed mostly around the pond area. Apart from dragonflies, I also caught some shots of a grasshopper and garden snail. I bet there would be more species of insects to shoot there if I looked hard enough.
Oh, and if you say you’re photographer (of course must show you have the gears lah!) and you’ve been there before, you can get in for S$1.50 instead of paying S$3.50. But, this preferential pricing is subjected to the cashier’s ‘assessment’.
Before the actual shoot, we arrived at about 7:00 am to a lake diagonally across the MOG to catch the sunrise. It was well-worth the early wake as the water body and forest terrain created a nice frame for the rising sun.
Address : 1, Cluny Road
Opening Hours : 5:00 am – 12 midnight daily
Entrance Fee : Free
I believe that anyone learning photography in Singapore would have been to this ‘national’ garden at one point or another. When I took up my Basic Digital Photography course in October 2009, we had a photo outing here.
Then for this Nature Macro Photography course, one of our planned outings was to SBG too but was later changed to a smaller location so that it’s easier for the instructor to coach us. And I can see why. SBG is huge and offers lots of plant and insect life to zoom in on.
But that’s also the problem. Because the subjects were so scattered, I tended to be frugal with what I wanted to shoot and in the end, shot very little. Compared to the number of shots I had today (28) with the other smaller locations (50 – 100), small is actually more.
On top of that, walking from one bush to another takes quite a bit of time as they’re a distance away and that’s losing precious shoot time in the soft morning light. So I think it’s useful to identify a feature there (eg. pond, cactus garden, orchid garden, etc) that catches the light and just stick to it and shoot.
Although the bugs were harder to find and the place huge, I preferred shooting at SBG because it is accessible and has lots of amenities. For a beginner like me, the array of flora and fauna is also a sort of guarantee that I’ll go home with some decent shots.
Address : Riverside Road (15-minutes walk from Woodlands MRT)
Opening Hours : All day (Lighting hours from 7:00 pm – 7:00 am)
Entrance Fee : Free
For seasoned nature macro photographers, Admiralty Park is like a second home. On most mornings, and even at night, you can find photographers with their power gears and 2 ‘paperbag lights’ poking into bushes.
Shooting here is very rewarding because of the extremely wide variety of bugs and catching them in their natural habitats. But I find Admiralty Park to be the best place to photograph spiders.
I’ve seen lots of great spider photos taken by my friends and even encountered a pretty huge and colourful St Andrew Cross Spider during my outing there. This is one saint I sure don’t want to bump into. Yikes!
I understand why Admiralty Park keeps nature photographers coming back again and again, and I would too if I’m not staying so far away.
But who am I kidding? I can’t wait to stop shooting in macro. Maybe my interest will be ignited in future when I get a good tripod, invest in a macro lens and flash. For now, I’m just happy if I can find 6 photos and pass the course…