Macro Photography Bootcamp Borneo 2017

24 May 2017

Macro Photography Bootcamp Borneo 2017 has concluded. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list to be notified when the next one is announced!

The Macro Photography Bootcamp is a series of intensive workshops designed for beginner to advanced macro photographers. The only requirement is a feverish passion for macro photography and entomology, with a strong desire to elevate your macro shooting skills to an advanced level. This will be a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself into the rich biodiversity of exotic insects, spiders, reptiles and amphibians of Borneo’s pristine rainforests. At the same time, it will be an amazing bug-hunting experience with a group of like-minded, passionate individuals! To top it off, it is close to the end of the milky way season in the region and there should be ample opportunities for milky way photography!

Please also contact me separately if you wish to join as a non-photographer or wish to bring friends or family members who are non-photographers so that I can rework the costs for you.

For those who are completely new to macro photography and are interested in an introductory workshop, there is one suited for beginners in Singapore at Pulau Ubin, 3rd June 2017.

Check out the journal entries from the previous Macro Photography Bootcamp here:

Borneo Bootcamp 2015: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Workshop Location and Duration

The workshop will be held in locations with convenient access to excellent trails suitable for macro photography. The Danum Valley segment is optional. Those who are restricted by time and cost can opt to just go for Tawau Hills.

  • Tawau Hills: 16 to 20 July 2017 (Sun-Thu, FULL)
  • Danum Valley: 20 to 23 July 2017 (Thu-Sun, FULL)


The lessons will be conducted in Tawau Hills with numerous field trips, while the second segment in Danum Valley will be dedicated to field trips and one-to-one consultations with the instructor.

Tawau Hills Workshop: US$#### (twin/triple sharing)

  • Upgrade to Single Room in Tawau: +US$### (subject to availability)
  • Upgrade to Air-Conditioned Room in Tawau: +US$### (subject to availability)
  • Danum Valley Extension: +US$#### (gender-separated dormitories only, very limited beds)
  • Paypal processing fees: +5% of total

Price includes:

  • Scheduled workshop lessons and private consultation during field trips and free time
  • Access to Borneo’s pristine rainforests with 2-3 field trips per day except travel days
  • Minibus transfer from Tawau Airport to Tawau Hills
  • 4WD/Minibus transfer from Tawau Hills to Danum Valley
  • 4WD/Minibus transfer from Danum Valley to Tawau Airport
  • Basic jungle cabin with ceiling fan
  • Common toilets and showers only
  • Simple local breakfast, lunch and dinner as indicated in schedule
  • All entry and conservation fees to park and trails
  • Camera permits
  • Tips for local staff
  • Pre-trip consultation to fine-tune equipment
  • Access to private Facebook group for follow-up advice and discussions
  • Impromptu lesson on shooting the milky way if weather permits (F/2.8 ultra wide angle lens recommended)

Price excludes:

  • Airfare: International participants arriving via Kuala Lumpur should take the 0955h-1250 (AK5746) flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau via AirAsia on 16 July 2017
  • Personal insurance – for visitors to Danum Valley, your travel insurance must cover helicopter evacuation (show a copy upon check-in)
  • Photography equipment (bring your own gear!)
  • Personal travel immunization costs, if any
  • Any additional food, drinking water, etc. apart from stated meals

Workshop Requirements

  1. Burning passion in macro photography.
  2. Strong interest in insects, spiders, reptiles and amphibians
  3. DSLR or a good mirrorless digital camera
  4. Dedicated macro lens capable of 1:1 magnification, preferably between 60mm to 105mm
  5. Close up filters: Raynox DCR-150 or Raynox DCR-250
  6. External flash
  7. Additional external flash capable of being wirelessly triggered (for back-lighting)
  8. Tripod for natural light, ultraviolet and milky way shoot
  9. Laptop with Adobe Photoshop CC installed to benefit from post processing lessons
  10. Powerful lightweight torch/flashlight/headlamp for searching
  11. Powerful lightweight light attached to camera for focusing
  12. Basic proficiency in Adobe Photoshop (understand layers, levels, etc.)

Venue Details for Tawau Hills

Some things that you should know about the venue. Note that the jungle cabins are old and basic, do not expect a luxury stay!
  • All rooms have a ceiling fan.
  • Each room has limited power sockets. Please bring multi-plugs/power strips for charging multiple devices.
  • Separate male and female toilets with private shower cubicles are just a few steps away from the rooms.
  • Showers are not heated, and water pressure can be low at times.
  • You may wash your clothes – there are shared clothes lines for you to hang your clothes out to dry.
  • We can borrow some shared space in a fridge to store your beverages.
  • Lessons will be in a sheltered common area just in front of the rooms.

Venue Details for Danum Valley

We will be at a location at a short distance to the trails and not in any resort. All facilities are basic.
  • Male and female dormitories with showers will be in separate buildings
  • Lockers available in office, do not leave valuables lying around (to be confirmed)
  • Electricity available from 7:00am till 12:00am only

Field Trips in Tawau

  • All trails are within walking distance from the cabins.
  • The terrain is relatively flat – there is minimal to no climbing involved in the trails.

Tips for the Trip

  • Get a lightweight but powerful torch light for searching in the night.
  • Get spare batteries and chargers that can handle multiple batteries.
  • Borrow extra memory cards from your friends. I usually chalk up at least 20GB per day.
  • Rig a focusing light on your camera instead of holding a light with your hand.
  • Do more field shoots prior to the trip, note down any problems that you face.
  • Bring a hat, it blocks the sun from your eyes while shooting.
  • Bring leech socks (can also be purchased from park office at RM10).
  • Bring mosquito repellent.
  • Pack light.

Tawau Hills Schedule

 Day 1
16 Jul
Day 2
17 Jul
Day 3
18 Jul
Day 4
19 Jul
Day 5
20 Jul
7amMost participants will travel from Kuala Lumpur via AK5746 from 09:55am to 12:50pm.

Gather at Tawau Airport entrance at 01:00pm
Free timeFree timeFree timeEarly breakfast at 6am and depart for Danum ValleyThose not going to Danum Valley will leave for Tawau Airport at 9am, estimated to reach at 11am.
9amField TripField TripField Trip
12pmRefer to Danum Valley schedule below
1pmMinibus to supermarket for personal grocery shoppingLunchLunchLunch
2pmField TripField TripField Trip
3pmCheck in at jungle cabins
5pmWelcome to Borneo Bootcamp!Free timeFree timeFree time
6pmDinnerDinnerDinnerDinner / Debrief
  • Lighting
  • Composition
  • Finding subjects
  • Focusing techniques
  • Tips
  • Photo ReviewPhoto Review
  • Image Processing
  • Basic Focus Stacking
  • Advanced Techniques
  • Ultraviolet photography
  • Backlighting
  • Q&A / Open Discussion
    9pmNight Hike Milky Way Shoot*Night Hike Milky Way Shoot*Night Hike Milky Way Shoot*Night Hike Milky Way Shoot*

    Note: Schedule may be subject to changes.

    * Milky Way shoots are subject to weather conditions.

    Danum Valley Schedule

    There are no classroom lessons in Danum Valley. It will be an intense schedule of shooting practice, but participants are free to take breaks as and when they wish, and to request for one-on-one consultation sessions with the instructor.

     Day 5
    20 Jul
    Day 6
    21 Jul
    Day 7
    22 Jul
    Day 8
    23 Jul
    7am4WD/Minibus from
    Tawau Hills
    Danum Valley
    8amTrail ExplorationTrail Exploration4WD/Minibus from
    Danum Valley
    Tawau Airport
    1pmRest /Post ProcessingRest /Post ProcessingRest /Post ProcessingLunch at Airport at own costFlight from Tawau Airport
    8pmNight Hike Milky Way Shoot*Night Hike Milky Way Shoot*Night Hike Milky Way Shoot*

    Note: Schedule may be subject to changes.

    * Milky Way shoots are subject to weather conditions.

    Ground Rules

    As with all trips, there are basic ground rules to follow. By signing up for the trip, you agree to the following rules.

    Shooting etiquette

    1. Finders shoot first

      The one who finds the subject will have the right to shoot first, the rest who are interested to shoot should take a “queue number”.

    2. Share your finds

      Share what you find with others, and let everyone take a basic shot before going closer for high magnification shots.

    3. Slow shooters shoot later

      If you know that you take very long for your shots, let other faster participants shoot first.

    4. Keep volume low

      Do not shout or talk loudly when others are shooting, loud noise can scare skittish subjects away.

    5. Be magnanimous

      It is common for subjects to escape or disappear when you are shooting. It will happen to everyone, so refrain from blaming anyone when it happens, be magnanimous and move on.

    Specimen collection

    This is a photography workshop and not a collection trip for entomologists. Please discuss with me via email first if you have the permits and really have to collect specimens.


    Seats are limited, and secured only after confirmation of payment. If you encounter any problems with the form below, contact me at with the relevant details to register manually. This page will be updated should all the seats be filled. Register early to avoid disappointment!

    Cancellation Policy

    • 50% refund (excluding Paypal fee) for cancellations made before 16 June 2017.
    • No refund on or after 16 June 2017.
    • No additional fees to transfer your seat to someone else.

    Still Considering?

    Have questions? Ask in the comments section at the end of this post! Alternatively, send me a message on Facebook or just send me an email at

    If you are absolutely keen on this bootcamp but are not available during these dates, contact me regarding your interest so that I can notify you for the next bootcamp. Please also contact me directly if you wish to join as a non-photographer or wish to bring friends or family members who are not photographers.

    Meanwhile, here are some shots that I have taken at the bootcamp venue recently. You can also read the photo journal entries from the previous bootcamp. However, as all macro photographers would know, there is no guarantee in sighting any particular subject as some are only prevalent during certain months of the year.

    Note that I will normally respond to emails within a day. If you did not receive any reply, please resend your email in case it got lost!

      Post processing lesson
    1. Post processing lesson In the post processing lessons, participants learn simple steps to turning good shots into excellent ones.
    2. Field shoot
    3. Field shoot Most of the time is spent out in the field practising on the beautiful bugs and spiders of Borneo.
    4. Field shoot
    5. Field shoot The abundance of subjects means that most of us would be shooting almost all the time. In this photo, we were practising natural light techniques on a well camouflaged katydid.
    6. Night shoot
    7. Night shoot We would be out in the field every night as that’s when most of the action starts!
    8. World's tallest tropical tree
    9. World’s tallest tropical tree (Shorea faguetiana) Short hike up to the world’s tallest tropical tree!
    10. Borneo Bootcamp 2015
    11. Borneo Bootcamp 2015 Here’s everyone at the start of the day, including all participants, assistants and instructor. Join us in 2017!
    12. Giant shield bug (Tessaratomidae) - DSC_3224
    13. Giant shield bug (Tessaratomidae) Some of the most colourful shield bugs could be found here. We found one just outside the toilet.
    14. Lantern bug (Pyrops whiteheadi) - DSC_3952b
    15. Lantern bug (Pyrops whiteheadi) The venue is home to at least 3 different species of lantern bugs. Sighting them is not difficult, but getting an angle to photograph them depends a lot on luck!
    16. Lantern bug (Pyrops sidereus) - DSC_3088
    17. Lantern bug (Pyrops sidereus) Some of the lantern bugs have distinct host trees, and the chances of finding them would be much higher with an experienced guide.
    18. Lantern bug (Pyrops sultanus) - DSC_5646
    19. Lantern bug (Pyrops sultanus) Some can even be spotted at night, when they are less skittish.
    20. Huntsman spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_5372
    21. Huntsman spider (Sparassidae) This giant and colourful huntsman spider was spotted just 50m away from the cabins.
    22. Golden blue ant (Polyrhachis sp.) - DSC_3429
    23. Golden blue ant (Polyrhachis sp.) These ants were brilliantly coloured with a metallic blue abdomen.
    24. Broad-headed bark spider (Caerostris sp.) - DSC_5046
    25. Broad-headed bark spider (Caerostris sp.) A rare genus of orb weavers that can weave strong orb webs spanning several meters.
    26. Bird dung crab spider (Phrynarachne sp.) - DSC_4263
    27. Bird dung crab spider (Phrynarachne sp.) Many arachnologists like to look for this cryptic crab spider mimicking bird dung.
    28. Stick insect (Phasmatodea) - DSC_5417
    29. Stick insect (Phasmatodea) There were a number of huge stick insects around.
    30. Giant shield bug (Tessaratomidae) with cordyceps fungus -  DSC_3336
    31. Giant shield bug (Tessaratomidae) Unfortunately we also found many shield bugs infected with cordyceps fungus.
    32. Longhorn orb web spider (Macracantha arcuata) - DSC_3851
    33. Longhorn orb web spider (Macracantha arcuata) Probably the longest horns on any spider in the region, the longhorn orb web spider is a common sight near to the cabins.
    34. Giant black forest scorpion (Heterometrus sp.) - DSC_5272
    35. Giant black forest scorpion (Heterometrus sp.) One of the topics covered during the bootcamp will be ultraviolet photography. This scorpion was found next to the path between our cabins and the canteen.
    36. Blue harvestman (Opiliones) - DSC_4466
    37. Harvestman (Opiliones) Who would have imagined that a harvestman could be blue?
    38. Trilobite beetle larva (Platerodrilus sp.) - DSC_2938
    39. Trilobite beetle larva (Platerodrilus sp.) The famous beetle that resembles the extinct trilobite. Check out my trilobite checklist.
    40. Giant river toad (Phrynoidis juxtasper) - DSC_5020
    41. Giant river toad (Phrynoidis juxtasper) Some of the toads by the river were huge, spanning 20cm in length.
    42. Long horn orb weaver (Macracantha arcuata) - DSC_4337
    43. Long horn orb weaver (Macracantha arcuata) These flamboyant orb weavers are not too uncommon in the workshop area.
    44. Knob necked stick insect (Calvisia hennemanni) - DSC_4535
    45. Knob necked stick insect (Calvisia hennemanni) Stunning stick insect that we found during one of our night walks.
    46. Rhino beetle (Dynastinae) - DSC_5397
    47. Rhino beetle (Dynastinae) This rhino beetle flew to us near the cabin, which gave us the opportunity to take some wide angle shots when we were checking out on the last day.
    48. Dragon snake (Xenodermus javanicus) - DSC_4489
    49. Dragon snake (Xenodermus javanicus) Rare dragon snake found just a few meters into the trail.
    50. Great anglehead lizard (Gonocephalus grandis) - DSC_5711
    51. Great anglehead lizard (Gonocephalus grandis) Not uncommon, but still a delight to sight this male great anglehead lizard.
    52. Maliau Basin Milky Way - DSC_0249
    53. Milky Way in Borneo If weather permits, we will be able to photograph the milky way under the low light conditions. This was shot in Borneo, although not at the exact workshop location.
    Check out the journal entries from the previous Macro Photography Bootcamp here:

    Borneo Bootcamp 2015: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4




    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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