When talking about wildlife in Singapore, we imagine the stray cat that wanders around at kopitiams, or the occasional monkey and otter sighting. But Lenz Lim has discovered a world teeming with it on our island. You just have to look up, or go small. Really small.
Lenz Lim doesn’t mind a little extra bulk when photographing his extra small subjects.
Hello Lenz! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m an undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University, majoring in Accountancy. Besides wildlife photography, I have a strong passion for music as well, playing the guitar and piano for close to 11 years.
Pink-backed Pelican, Japan
Canon EOS 7D Mark II | F/5.6 | 1/320s | ISO 250
How and why did you choose to delve deeper into wildlife photography?
I have always had a strong interest in wildlife (even dinosaurs) from a young age and I grew up watching documentaries on National Geographic, Discovery Channel and BBC. It fascinated me that there’s so much of the world to discover, yet many of us go through our lives not noticing the beauty of nature around us.
I decided to try exploring Singapore’s biodiversity through photography. So in 2012, I invested in my first camera, the Canon EOS 60D along with two lenses, the Canon EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM for general wildlife and the Canon EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM for close-up photography.
Mangrove Pit Viper, Singapore
Canon EOS 7D Mark II | F/4 | 1/200s | ISO 2000
Mantis Nymph, Singapore
Canon EOS 7D Mark II | F/10 | 1/200s | ISO 160
Tell us a bit about your fascination with insects in particular.
Macro photography can be challenging, but it is definitely rewarding. I’m intrigued by the results you get when magnifying small subjects such as insects! The excitement of new discoveries and documenting them makes it worth shooting outdoors for hours.
Two-tailed Spider, Singapore
Canon EOS 5DS | F/10 | 1/200s | ISO 100
Migrating Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Singapore
Canon EOS 7D Mark II | F/5.6 | 1/200s | ISO 400
Walk us through your preparation process.
When it comes to wildlife photography, proper research prior to the shoot gives me a huge advantage. Information such as the habitat, behaviour, diet and even the unique calls of the subjects increases my chances of finding them as I would roughly know where to look. It seems tedious but with experience and practice, it gets easier. Many migratory species such as the Eurasian Curlew, Green Shanks and Asian Emerald Cuckoo flock to Singapore before continuing on with their journeys and knowing when they arrive or leave will allow me to make the best out of the migratory season!
Noctuidae Caterpillar (Eudocima sp.) with ectoparasites, Singapore
Canon EOS 5DS | F/13 | 1/100s | ISO 250
What are some of your must-have equipment when heading out for shoots?
For birding, I like to use my Canon EOS 7D Mark II with the Canon EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM and Canon Extender EF 1.4xIII. For macro shoots, I use my Canon EOS 80D, Canon EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM and various flash units and a flash diffuser. I also make sure to bring along an umbrella or raincoat, foldable chair, insect repellent, camouflage scarf, extra batteries and water!
Cicada Moulting, Malaysia
Canon EOS 80D | F/9 | 1/100s | ISO 100
Mule Deer, United States
Canon EOS 60D | F/5.6 | 1/250s | ISO 1600
Do you take different approaches to shooting animals and insects?
The technical skills involved for wildlife and macro are vastly different. Shooting wildlife requires you to be familiar and quick with settings, as animals are usually moving. Anticipating movements of the animal and being quick to adapt to various situations increase your chance of getting a great shot. On the other hand, the settings for macro photography are pretty straightforward. That said, you may require certain techniques, such as a handheld focus-stacking (a technique where photos are taken a different focus distances and stacked using software like Photoshop to create a larger depth of field), which takes a lot of practice and patience.
Searching for animal subjects requires working with longer focal lengths, to ensure that you do not spook the animal. The prime time to look for birds and other animals is generally early morning and late afternoon. On the other hand, the forest comes alive at night and macro photo shoots usually take place from about 8pm to past midnight.
Chestnut Munias, Singapore
Canon EOS 7D Mark II | F/5.6 | 1/320s | ISO 250
Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Singapore
Canon EOS 80D | F/8 | 1/200s | ISO 100
What would you say makes for a good wildlife shot?
To me, it’s one that leaves an impression and evokes emotions in the audience. It should be able to connect with the viewer and tell a story through the composition. Technically, lighting diffusion is the key element that differentiates a good macro photo from others.
Malaysian Pied Fantail, Singapore
Canon EOS 7D Mark II | F/8 | 1/1600s | ISO 5000
What are some of the challenges that you face during your excursions?
The biggest challenge would be the dilemma of deciding whether or not to leave after spending hours waiting for a subject to appear! I would usually wait unless there is another subject nearby or if I have an appointment coming up.
Portia Fimbriata, Singapore
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | F/10 | 1/125s | ISO 100
What are some of the traits that you think a wildlife photographer must have?
Passion for wildlife photography, undoubtedly. Photographers could spend hours, days, and for some, even years to perfect an image. Imagine finding no subject after an arduous trek or mountain climb! You will need a lot of patience, determination, as well as dedication.
Crested Goshawk, Singapore
Canon EOS 7D Mark II | F/5.6 | 1/250s | ISO 1600
Tell us about an encounter that was particularly memorable.
When I visited Tokyo in 2016, I was invited by a member of the Wild Bird Society of Japan (WBSJ) to join them for a birding trip at Kasai Rinkai Park. They were so welcoming and friendly towards my girlfriend and I, even giving us postcards of unique bird species native to Japan. It was an eye-opener, seeing the differences between birders of Japan and Singapore. Many of them were using spotting scopes on tripods and recorded the species they saw in a personal notebook. In contrast, local birders use long telephoto or zoom lenses to do the recording. I guess that’s the difference between a birder and a photographer!
Scorpion Tailed Spider (Arachnura Higginsi), Singapore
Canon EOS 7D Mark II | F/8 | 1/80s | ISO 100
Where is your favourite place to shoot in Singapore?
Pasir Ris Park. It’s home to many different species of wildlife whether you are there for birds, snakes or insects! Even migratory birds tend to visit Pasir Ris.
Viciria cf. praemandibularis, Singapore
Canon EOS 1D X Mark II | F/9 | 1/160s | ISO 100
What equipment would you recommend investing in for a beginner macro and wildlife photographer?
The equipment you need for macro will definitely be easier on your wallet compared to investing in long lenses and fast bodies. If you own a Canon mirrorless system, the newly released Canon EF-M28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM with built-in ring light can be a great starter lens for macro!
If you are venturing into wildlife photography, I recommend using DSLRs because of overall ergonomics, especially when using heavy long lenses, the battery life, AF systems and many other reasons. The Canon EOS 80D is one of the newer cropped sensor bodies released by Canon and if you pair it with a zoom lens like the Canon EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, you will be able to get good results.
Singapore Tarantula (Phlogiellus Inermis), Singapore
Canon EOS 80D | F/9 | 1/160s | ISO 100
Any tips for those looking to start wildlife and macro photography?
Have the willingness to learn and improve. Don’t be afraid to ask experienced photographers for advice and tips. I personally have spent countless hours on YouTube learning from professionals. Reflecting on your performance for the day will help you to improve your skills through experience. And most of all, just keep shooting!
Popular Facebook groups such as “Bird Sightings” and “Singapore Birders” may be useful for birding, while “Macro Artist Corner (MAC)” and “Macro Friendship Sharing (MFS)” are helpful for macro photography.