A Shutterbug With An Eye For Nature

What does it take to be a nature photographer? For NParks volunteer Colleen Goh, her passion for photography began when she developed a fascination with the finer details of wildlife.

Colleen’s interest in photographing nature subjects was influenced, in no small part, by having been a senior outreach officer at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) more than a decade ago. However, it was not till she left that she developed a love for photography. “This was a shame as the Reserve is a treasure trove of subjects for the nature photographer,” she admits.

Colleen’s interest in photography was first piqued in 2006, when she first picked up a point-and-shoot camera. “I’ve always been very interested in macro photography, and was amazed at how my little camera was able to show me the details I was not able to see with my naked eye.”

Not long after, she moved on to more specialised equipment to capture shots of birds at the wetlands. Colleen also enjoys taking macro shots: “My favourite macro subjects are the spiders, kerranga ants and grasshoppers that can be found all around the Reserve.” The main challenge is getting the focus right while being aware of the background, she shares. “Taking marco photos can also be very back-breaking as most subjects are at knee-level.”

Colleen, now a professional photographer who specialises in nature and pets, volunteers extensively at SBWR’s photography-related events. She helps the staff to take photos during their surveys of biodiversity, and also conducts talks on nature photography. Her most memorable event was SBWR’s 15th anniversary, where she exhibited the nature photos taken by her Macro Maniacs photography group. “It was a very proud moment for us when the guest of honour, then-SM Goh Chok Tong came and viewed our photos.”

Though some regard nature photography as a male-dominated activity due to its physical requirements, Colleen begs to differ. “Lugging a heavy tripod and lens is not for all ladies. But I have come to realise that the joys of bird photography outweigh the pain of carrying the equipment. Nothing can really beat the feeling of elation when you have nailed a perfect flight shot.” She feels gratified that more women have joined her in taking up nature photography over the last few years.

If you are new to shooting in nature areas, Colleen has the following tips to share:

  • Be patient and observant. This will help you find your subjects.

  • Be respectful of the subjects and their homes. Never stress an animal, and do not harm its environment.

  • Timing is crucial when photographing birds, especially waders such as plovers and sandpipers. The best time is at high tide, when all their usual feeding areas around Singapore are inundated by water. They will then congregate at SBWR’s ponds to feed.

  • Practice, practice, practice. The more you shoot, the better you will get!

By Germaine Ong and Linda Goh
Photos courtesy of Colleen Goh

Excuse Me, Are You A Photographer?

To celebrate Singapore’s efforts in enhancing our greenery and biodiversity, NParks has organised a year-long photo competition!

The City in a Garden Photography Competition revolves around four themes: “Our Parks and Gardens”, “Trees and Forests” “BiodiverCity” and “My City in a Garden”.

The competition runs from 24 June 2011 to 7 Apr 2011. There are attractive prizes to be won. So pick up your camera and start shooting!

For more information, visit ciagpc.nparks.gov.sg

Colleen with her birding setup, at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The Gardens sees many migratory birds during the migratory season.

A Black-shouldered Kite, one of many birds which Colleen has photographed over the years.

A planthopper from the family Eurybrachyidae, photographed by Colleen at Lower Peirce Boardwalk.

Colleen with her macro photography setup, photographing fireflies for a study conducted by SBWR’s staff.

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