NParks Trees For Life 2014

I’ll be the first one to say I don’t photograph many stationary objects; the occasional fungi, of course, is there, but my lack of skill when it comes to portraits (or, indeed, people in general) has been emphasized more times than necessary by my family, so when I learned of the NParks photography competition ‘Trees for Life’, I was sceptical. Trees? Really?

Today I got an email from Joelyn Oh, the manager of the competition, informing me that I had won a Consolation Prize in the Secondary category.

I was– and still am– ecstatic. Let alone the fact that I’ve never won a photography competition (let alone enter one, but that’s another matter), this means that my photograph will be exhibited at the Singapore Garden Festival at Gardens by the Bay, as well as at several public libraries around the island.

I submitted three images; one has been showcased before on this blog, but it didn’t win, so it doesn’t really matter. It was the Old Banyan Tree.


If you remember, my blog post on it was chiefly spent complaining about how hard it was to get a decent photograph of it that truly exhibited its magnificence, et al., so it’s not too much of a surprise it didn’t win. Here’s the caption I entered for this photograph:

“I can bicycle to the old banyan tree blindfolded; I’ve been there so many times. But every time, I cannot help but slow down as I wonder at its majesty, its age. It carries itself with a certain grace that I cannot hope to capture fully in this single photograph.”

My next submission was of a Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker (Dendrocopus moluccensis) I spotted on a coconut tree near my house, pecking away as it searched for termites.

I entitled the image “Coconut Peckers”.


“A Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker looks for termites to eat: trees not only provide a home for wildlife, but food as well. This coconut tree was most likely there for decoration, but the reason I love this tree is because now it’s part of Singapore’s ecology and part of our biodiversity.”

My last image has kind-of-sort-of been feautured on this blog before. If you remember my post “Beginnings in Bulbuls“, this photograph– the one that won (hah– homophone– no one? Never mind.)– has, not-really-coincidentally, almost the same name, and technically the same subject as that one did. Only not really. It’s complicated.

So, I present to you, Consolation Prize-winner of the NParks Trees for Life competition 2014: Bulbul Beginnings.


“I took this photograph of a juvenile bulbul sitting on that branch in that tree one year ago. I was very proud of it. One year later, I’ve photographed many more birds in many more trees but this one will always be special to me for having begun my journey.”

What’s that I hear? Non-existent applause? Why, thank you, thank you.

In all seriousness, I’m so excited about this. It truly is an honor and I would like to thank National Parks Singapore for all the work they put into this and all the other fantastic projects they maintain all across the isalnd.

If anyone’s interested, here’s the exhibition schedule for the photographs. While I haven’t had a chance to see any of the rest of them yet, I’m sure they’ll all be fantastic!

Venue Exhibition Period
1 Singapore Garden Festival @ Gardens by the Bay 16 – 24 August 2014
2 Woodlands Regional Library 25 August – 10 September 2014
3 Tampines Regional Library 11 September – 22 September 2014
4 Central Public Library 3 – 16 October 2014

Beginnings in Bulbuls


The first picture I ever took of a bird was the notoriously loud and bothersome White-crested Laughing Thrush. It’s not a good picture, to put it nicely. Not very impressive. Creates a bad impression of me and whatnot. I’m not going to show it to you.

However, the first picture that I took of a bird that I was proud of (to make an understatement) was this one. While coming home from school one day, I heard it calling from a tree; I rushed home for a camera, and then was immensely surprised to hear it still calling. Most birds had had the good sense to scarper by then. I ascertained its position, and… click!

I reviewed the picture. It wasn’t very good.



Click! Click! Click!

I heaved a great sigh and moved a foot to the left. My legs were starting to fall asleep.

Click!….. Woah.

As soon as I saw that picture, I saw my future opening up ahead of me: I would be acclaimed as an international bird photographer. I would go on assignments for National Geographic. I praised myself on capturing the spark of blue in its eyes, the fluffiness of the feathers on its breast, the delicate curvature of its beak (because of course it had nothing to do with the camera I was using, my mother’s new Leika). I congratulated myself on my ‘foresight’ in having moved a foot to the left so that I captured the bulbul against trees rather than the glaring sunlight I was getting before. After the bulbul got tired of me and finally flew away, I went home and immediately proceeded to show the picture to everyone and anyone. It was the beginning of a long and glorious career in boring everyone to death by detailed descriptions of birds and other widllife.

Hey, everyone has to start somewhere.