Night Trek through the Borneo Jungle

Katja and I spent the last three nights in a wildlife camp in search of jungle adventures on Borneo. The island used to be a paradise for this kind of thing, but the look from the airplane was devastating — except for narrow bands of forrest along the rivers and some protected areas there were palm plantations as far as the eye can see. The Lonely Planet tries to sound cheerful by stating that at least the wildlife is now concentrated in those small areas, but this seems a bit of a stretch for us…

Just to give you an idea of how remote the location of the camp is, we drove 75 km out of town and then over an hour by motor-boat to get there, and there were still palm plantations all over the place…

Anyhow, back to the animals. The guide told us that dry weather is good for seeing animals, bad weather is bad, but after a rain it’s perfect. And it had just rained for over an hour, so our hopes were high while we were preparing for the night-walk and putting on our rubber boots. “Good against fire-ants and leaches” said our guide and laughed…

So we got into the motor boat again and drove for another 20 minutes. With a flick of the wrist the guide pointed the boat towards the mud and after it came to a stop we quickly climbed the steep and slippery river bank. Except for the moon which we could occasionally see through the thick forrest canopy, our surroundings were pitch-black, but the forrest was nevertheless alive with sounds.

And there we were: 10 people, 10 head-lamps, 8 compact cameras, one SLR and one mirrorless camera. Since I’d experienced this same walk the night before, I knew exactly what to expect and which equipment to take with me. The Olympus E-M5 was clearly coming (since it’s my only camera), and I’d decided for the inexpensive but very good 40-150/4-5.6 as well as the FL-600R flash. I should have taken the off-camera TTL cord also, but damn it — I only though about it once I was already on the trail.

Twenty eyes can see amazingly well! Everyone was turning and peering in different directions, following the light-cones of our head-lamps, and indeed the “hunt” after the tropical rain was much more successful than the night before…

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And finally here is the very rare tarsier. Even our guide got excited about this find, which apparently he’s seen only once before in his whole life!

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All pictures were shot on manual exposure at f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/200″. I’ve written about my AF settings before, and tonight I used all the tricks. Since the light levels at night were so low, the camera was not funding the perfect focus, but I nailed it almost every time using the manual focus fine-turning with automatic image magnification. So guess what — it worked like a charm, and I love my EVF!!!

Except for the direct and non-diffused lighting I am very happy with the images above. And the 40-150/4-5.6 did extremely well, don’t you think?

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