Journal Workshop

Borneo Bootcamp 2017 – Tawau Hills Park Day 1

16 July 2017

Borneo Bootcamp 2017 Daily Journal

Tawau Hills: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Danum Valley: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

Start of an Epic Journey

Finally got down to photo-journaling this year’s Borneo Bootcamp! This year’s bootcamp was quite different, with it held across 2 different locations in Borneo and over 8 days. It was also announced pretty late with less than 2 months before the actual workshop. Nevertheless, we had a very fruitful adventure with participants from 9 different countries — all crazy about bugs and spiders!

It is a true honour to have met this insanely passionate group of macro photographers who refused to stop to rest throughout the trip. It was really tough to get everyone from point A to point B, when they had to stop so often to look at what someone found. Everyone got truly excited at almost every bug, arachnid, amphibian, and reptile that we saw (and of course, many other invertebrates). Thank you for the overflowing enthusiasm and I hope to shoot with you all again in the future! I did not shoot as much, but I’ll include as much as I can in this journal.

Big Thank You!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all participants for their overwhelming enthusiasm, and to all my assistants and friends who helped out tirelessly during the bootcamp. Big thank you to Amber, Dennis, Dori and Min Sheng for their assistance to make sure everything ran smoothly. Heartfelt thanks to Tom for bringing a gift for my daughter, all the way from USA! Special thanks also to Jeff for assisting with arrangement of logistics!

Behind the scenes shots were contributed by our sporting participants. If you deem that any shots made you look less glamorous than you should be… you will need to come to the next bootcamp to have your photos re-taken. 🙂

Day 1: Arrival in Tawau

  1. Arrival in Tawau

    After an incredulously hectic flight transfer in Kuala Lumpur, all of us finally made it in Tawau!

    Note to travellers to Malaysia: 2 hours is not enough for transit in Kuala Lumpur to domestic flights. We were told that the next flight’s gates were closed when we reached the check-in counter despite running all the way upon arrival. Thanks to Dori for holding the gates open for us!

  2. 02-dennis-DSC01908-(1)
  3. Ready to Go!

    Everyone couldn’t wait to get into the jungles! Unfortunately Min Sheng was at his car and couldn’t join in for this group photo.

    Back from left: Dennis, Hanyrol, Jenny, Pierre, Chris, Emma, Paul

    Front from left: Don, Tom, Nicky, Dori, Amber

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  5. Gathering Our Supplies

    While the accommodation at Tawau Hills was quite sufficient, we stocked up on water and extra food for the next few days. I also managed to get some supplies to rig our own diffusers! Amber even got a box of donuts for all of us, thanks!!

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  7. Arrival at Tawau Hills

    Tawau Hills was just slightly over an hour’s ride from our pit stop. Everyone unloaded and waited at the entrance for me to settle the administrative work. We had the same driver this time — the bodybuilder Mr Borneo!

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  9. The Ladies

    Jenny had the heaviest backpack in the group. Or rather, she was the only one carrying everything in her backpack! The weight didn’t seem to bother her though!

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  11. Distributing the Keys

    Dennis distributed the room keys to everyone and we were ready to march towards our cabins!

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  13. I’m Back!

    Dori attended Borneo Bootcamp back in 2015, didn’t have enough, and is back again this time to assist me. Always exciting to be back here!

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  15. Lugging the Supplies

    Pierre and Don taking a quick break midway towards the cabins. The gallons of water just seemed to get heavier with each step. A macaque sits quietly on the sign in the background, eyeing their snacks…

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  17. The Cabins

    And we’re here! This is where we would be holed up for the next 5 days.
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  19. Setting up the classroom

    Dori got to work quickly, setting up the screen that we would be using for the classes.

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  21. Schedule at Tawau Hills

    The very tight schedule for the next 5 days. Field trips all day and night!

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  23. The Cabin

    This is how the rooms looked like. Pierre settled in very quickly in his comfy air-conditioned room.

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  25. Nothing Changed?

    Dori looking out from her room, probably reminiscing about the trip in 2015.

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  27. Emma’s Ready!

    Emma was not attending as a macro photographer, but she’s an excellent spotter. Sometimes she would just casually point out lantern bugs a distance away from the trails.

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  29. Group Introduction

    Everyone gave a self-introduction on their experience in macro photography. This was where the hashtag #cometobrunei started and would linger on for the rest of the trip.

    Hanyrol was also the only one taking lots of notes throughout the classes!

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  31. Building Diffusers

    With simple materials from the hypermart, we worked on getting everyone’s flash diffusers ready for the night shoot.

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  33. Explaining the Materials and Shapes

    Explaining to Paul on the materials used for the reflector and how to build an effective one.

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  35. Arts and Crafts!

    Jenny was made to craft her own reflector. Turned out to be pretty good!

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  37. Don and Tom

    Both took super long flights from the USA in hopes of seeing more exotic Bornean micro fauna. This is Tom’s second bootcamp!

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  39. Comparing Diffusers

    Min Sheng took a picture of my diffuser earlier and tried to compare it with his.

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  41. All Ready to Go Bugging!

    Jenny armed herself with this octopus-like lighting system, all ready to get into the field!

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  43. Exploring Around the Cabins

    Most couldn’t wait. While we were working on the diffusers, the rest were already frolicking about outside the cabins.

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  45. Excited Pierre

    Paul found a bark horned mantis outside my cabin and Pierre had loads of fun photographing it, proning on the grass without thought for the leeches climbing into his underwear.

  46. Bark horned mantis (Ceratocrania sp.) - DSC_7019
  47. Bark horned mantis (Ceratocrania sp.)

    Shot of the bark horned mantis, when Paul first spotted it on the railing.

  48. Bark horned mantis (Ceratocrania sp.) - DSC_7152
  49. Bark horned mantis (Ceratocrania sp.)

    Close up of the mantis head. We found the same mantis in our last bootcamp outside my cabin as well, but it was already dead. Glad to find a healthy individual this time!

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  51. Dennis Points out a Giant Shield Bug

    Only in Borneo Bootcamp, where we have folks pointing out bugs, while chugging down a can (or two… or three…) of ice cold beer.

  52. Giant shield bug (Pygoplatys lancifer) - DSC_7044
  53. Giant shield bug (Pygoplatys lancifer)

    Dorsal view of the magnificent giant shield bug pointed out above. This place has an amazing diversity of shield bugs!

  54. Giant shield bug (Pygoplatys lancifer) - DSC_7048
  55. Giant shield bug (Pygoplatys lancifer)

    Her incredible lattice of eggs!

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  57. Day 1 Dinner

    Everyone was famished with only simple burgers and snacks for lunch at the hypermart. But still, it took quite a lot of effort to get everyone to the canteen, with so many distractions along the way. Food was much better than in 2015!

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  59. Lesson 1: Reinforcing Basics

    This was an advanced macro photography workshop, but we still had to quickly get everyone up to speed with the basics and pitfalls to look out for.

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  61. Avoid Tight Crops

    A point that I would repeat over and over again. Avoid overly tight crops and let your subjects have room to breathe. Any cropped shots should be obvious to focus on parts of the subject, rather than simply cutting out spaces around the subject.

  62. First Night Shoot: We Didn’t Go Far

    We spent less than 3 hours as a warm-up session in the first night shoot around our cabins, but it turned out to be pretty intense with find after find. This is just a little summary. We saw way more than what you’re seeing here!

  63. Camping with the Light Trap

    Paul checking out the black light trap. The rest were particularly excited about the pair of rhinoceros beetles and giant cicadas on it. In the end, the light trap was just used to survey what we could see in the area. Everyone ran into the bushes instead for more exciting stuff.

  64. Flatid planthopper (Flatidae) - DSC_7033
  65. Flatid planthopper (Flatidae)

    Found a nice flatid planthopper to have a simple back-lighting demonstration for the participants.

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  67. Pierre Trying Out Back-Lighting

    Couldn’t wait! Pierre was already trying out back-lighting as we stepped out of the cabins.

  68. Stick insect (Phasmatodea) - DSC_7038
  69. Stick insect (Phasmatodea)

    There were many stick insects! Unfortunately I didn’t have time to document most of them.

  70. Stick insect (Phasmatodea) - DSC_7057
  71. Stick insect (Phasmatodea)

    Emma and Chris saw this cryptic stick insect within the foliage. It was really difficult to locate the legs and eyes.

  72. Stick insect (Phasmatodea) - DSC_7052
  73. Stick insect (Phasmatodea)

    Close up of the cryptic stick insect. Notice the eye yet?

  74. Flat Leaf-Mimic Katydid
  75. Flat Leaf-Mimic Katydid (Tettigoniidae) ©2017 Tom Astle

    This leaf-mimic katydid is a regular in our bootcamps. Always so beautiful when flattened on the leaf.

  76. Rhino beetle (Chalcosoma moellenkampi) - DSC_7066
  77. Rhino beetle (Chalcosoma sp.)

    Paul helped me to position the flashes to encapsulate this large rhinoceros beetle. It was the only way to light up the entire subject as it was too reflective. Later in the night, the female was spotted also, and they were found mating in the following morning but seemed like nobody took shots of them!

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  79. Rhinoceros beetle (Chalcosoma sp.) ©2017 Khoo Min Sheng

    Knowing that it was difficult to light up a large and reflective subject at night, a tight crop was recommended for this rhinoceros beetle.

  80. Huntsman spider (Heteropoda davidbowie) - DSC_7070
  81. David Bowie’s huntsman spider (Heteropoda davidbowie)

    We found the famous male Heteropoda davidbowie running about on the grass just a few metres away from the cabin!

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  83. Jeff Jumps In

    Jeff works in Tawau Hills and helped me with some of the logistics. He joined our night shoot and got down to action quickly with the Heteropoda davidbowie.

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  85. David Bowie’s huntsman spider (Heteropoda davidbowie) ©2017 Paul Ng

    Paul’s take on this skittish but handsome spider.
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  87. Tom’s Yoga Pose

    Tom had a go with the Heteropoda davidbowie as well. He was obviously more aware of the leeches than the rest.

  88. Huntsman spider (Heteropoda davidbowie) - DSC_7075
  89. David Bowie’s huntsman spider (Heteropoda davidbowie)

    We then got much closer to get a portrait of Mr David Bowie Spidey. Brilliant colours!

  90. Leafhopper (Cicadellidae) - DSC_7081
  91. Leafhopper (Cicadellidae)

    Among the many leafhoppers found in Tawau Hills was this beautiful orange specimen with black and white markings. It has the characteristic row of spines on the tibia.

  92. Leafhoppers (Cicadellidae) with ants - DSC_7084
  93. Leafhoppers (Cicadellidae) with ants

    We also spotted some ants milking the cicadellid nymphs.

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  95. Crab spider (Epidius sp.) ©2017 Khoo Min Sheng

    Min Sheng was actually new to macro photography, but he’s an extremely fast learner! This species of Epidius is probably new to science and has been recorded in this area several times.

  96. Stick caterpillar - DSC_7091
  97. Stick caterpillar

    This caterpillar was a perfect stick model until it started to move. Kept Dennis fascinated for quite a while!

  98. Trilobite Beetle
  99. Trilobite beetle (Platerodrilus sp.) ©2017 Tom Astle

    Interestingly, many of the trilobite beetles found this year were on the foliage and not on rotten logs.

  100. Wolf spider (Lycosidae) - DSC_7094
  101. Wolf spider (Lycosidae)

    Many wolf spiders were running about on the forest floor. We could see them scampering about by just brushing our feet on the grass.

  102. Grass Frog (Fejervarya limnocharis)
  103. Grass Frog (Fejervarya limnocharis) ©2017 Tom Astle

    There were many frogs in the area as it had been raining very frequently.

  104. Red bugs (Pyrrhocoridae) - DSC_7096
  105. Red bugs (Pyrrhocoridae)

    Stunning pair of mating red bugs found in the foliage!

  106. Tiger Beetles At Night
  107. Tiger Beetles At Night (Cicindela cf. aurulenta) ©2017 Tom Astle

    Although these are the fastest running land animals, these tiger beetles are very docile at night and tend to congregate on the same leaf.

  108. Masked hunter assassin bug nymph (Reduvius sp.) - DSC_7112
  109. Masked hunter assassin bug nymph (Reduvius sp.)

    A regular subject in Borneo Bootcamp. These assassin bugs are extremely cryptic and almost impossible to spot without some experience with it. Spot the legs and eyes!

  110. Masked hunter assassin bug nymph (Reduvius sp.) - DSC_7114
  111. Masked hunter assassin bug nymph (Reduvius sp.)

    It got close to this grasshopper for a brief moment, but didn’t attack it.

  112. Orange Shield Bug sp. Juveniles
  113. Juvenile Shield Bugs (Pycanum sp.) ©2017 Tom Astle

    I like to call these sushi bugs. They bear widely varying colours at different stages of their lives. Check out my Pentatomoidea Checklist: Shield Bugs & Stink Bugs.

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  115. Leaf beetles (Gonophora sp.) ©2017 Khoo Min Sheng

    We’ve seen this odd species of Gonophora in 2015, so glad to see them again!

  116. Ground spider (Mallinella sp.) - DSC_7123
  117. Ground spider (Mallinella sp.)

    These ground spiders were not found on the ground, but on tree trunks. That’s how misleading common names can be. 😉

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  119. Weevil with Ant ©2017 Pierre Escoubas

    Not sure what’s going on here, except that Pierre was busy trying out back-lighting on everything!

  120. Longhorn beetle (Coptops sp.) - DSC_7127
  121. Longhorn beetle (Coptops sp.)

    We also spotted this very cooperative longhorn beetle from the Cerambycidae family.

  122. Longhorn beetle (Coptops sp.) - DSC_7130
  123. Longhorn beetle (Coptops sp.)

    Lateral view for the record.

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  125. Moth Buddy ©2017 Tom Astle

    Tom had a buddy landing on him when we retired to the cabins.

  126. Moth - DSC_7139
  127. Moth Buddy

    It was very cooperative and stayed around at the lesson area, allowing us to get closer for the portrait.

  128. No milkyway - DSC_7160
  129. No milkyway

    The sky was clear for a moment when we returned to the cabins, but the clouds rolled in just when the tripods were making their way out. No milkyway luck tonight, means it is finally time to do some reverse planking…

Day 1 Concluded!

There were actually a lot more finds on the first night, and many participants refused to retire to their rooms (some because of jet lag). I found Don walking around the light trap at 5am in the morning!

At midnight, some were making their way back to their rooms while the others just kept going. It had been a fruitful first night and everyone was eagerly looking forward to the next few days!

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Borneo Bootcamp 2017 Daily Journal

Tawau Hills: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Danum Valley: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3




Hi my name is Nicky Bay. I am a macro photographer, instructor and book author, travelling the world to document the vast micro biodiversity that nature has to offer. Follow my updates and discover with me the incredible beauty and science behind our planet's micro creatures!

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