Malaysia has just recorded all time high Covid-19 new daily cases today at 9353. The numbers just keep going up. After 2 months plus of lockdown and being confined in my miserable room, we are nowhere near recovery, that light at the end of the tunnel might be just a train heading straight for us. I now have the Olympus M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4 PRO with me, which I can't do much testing (nothing fun to shoot around here), but we do have a neighborhood cat that is a bit too friendly. I thought, why not? Since there really is nothing else to do. I am sure the spider in my room is bored of me talking to him, so time to torture another creature instead. The spider could use some rest. 

How can you say no to this face?

Crop from previous image - the Olympus 8-25mm is super sharp at longest end 25mm. 

I was very pleased to report that the Olympus 8-25mm lens is incredibly sharp, based on my initial, brief testing. Nothing conclusive yet, I still need to do more extensive shoots but for now, I am happy with what I see from the images that came out from this lens. I only shared this one shot of the cat, because the other images I got were 1) my messy bedroom 2) the ugly buildings near my apartment 3) the boring parking space in the basement with lousy lighting 4) ugly sky that was about to rain 5) myself naked. Ok, maybe I made up the last item, or... did I not? You have to understand, being stuck in a room for more than 2 months, it does things to you. 
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I was not joking when I told you guys in my previous articles (and also in video) that photography and videography, both commercial and non-commercial were banned during the current lockdown in Malaysia. However, I was surprised to find out that the production that was carried out indoor, in a private space, that involved no crew or anyone except the owner of the said space, shooting food and products, was also prohibited. In the article published today the government agency/authority FINAS (The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia) raided a commercial studio that was allegedly doing a small scale shooting indoor. Unfortunately, I cannot find any articles in English. 

Press release circulated by the government agency, serving as a warning and reminder that ALL filming and production are not allowed during the lockdown period. 

The official press statement from FINAS

From my understanding, the general rule being mandated by the government during the lockdown is - no economy or social activities are allowed with minor exceptions for essential services such as healthcare, supplies and food. Photography and videography, or any commercial productions are strictly banned. Not only you are banned from shooting outdoor, now it seems clear that you cannot even do anything indoor, inside your private property. No questions here, any form of activity that is non essential (photography and video included) cannot be performed ANYWHERE in Malaysia. 

They also have specifically banned outdoor photography under the category of social activities, but I will not repeat what I have said in my previous article here. 

How the heck are we going to survive this? How does shooting food in a studio environment cause any virus infection? This does not make any sense at all. I understand that we are not allowed to move or do anything outdoor, but why can't we do anything indoor, in the private space to at least be able to earn whatever little cash possible? Struggling small business owners, photographers and videographers especially are dying out there. This is so unfair, and honestly quite unnecessary. 

I am not even sure which category "filming for YouTube" falls into. I wonder if that is wrong too. 
Well, if you don't hear anything from me, if I sudden disappear, I guess you know what happens. I am fighting as hard as I can to weather this storm, but it seems like even the government is against me, instead of helping us who are already suffering massive loss of income. 

The lockdown has been doing on for 2 months now (since beginning of May) and cases are not going down, in fact, it started to rise again. From the looks of things, I can kiss 2021 goodbye at this point. And I sure have little hope for 2022 too. 

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I have just published my first impressions on the Olympus M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4 PRO lens. My pre-order arrived, and this was my own lens which I purchased with my own money. Since Malaysia is still under tight lockdown unfortunately I cannot do much testing the lens, so no full review at this moment. I did talk about my initial thoughts and shared my reasons for adding this lens into my camera bag. I genuinely think it is a super versatile lens, I like the flexible zoom range starting from ultra wide 8mm going all the way to 25mm, the build quality with full weather-sealing, close up shooting and the ability to take filters directly. Being a PRO lens I expect the image quality to be consistently good as well. You can find my short video here (click)

Olympus' latest lens - M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4 PRO

I can't wait for the lockdown to be over so I can bring this lens out for some shutter therapy sessions. I will do a full review for my YouTube as well as this blog here, so do stay tuned for that! 

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The Prime Minister has just made a casual announcement that the Lockdown will not end, with no indication of how long it will continue to last. The stricter lockdown started on 7 May (Kuala Lumpur), with full lockdown implemented nationwide starting 1 June. It is coming to 2 months of me being stuck in my tiny bedroom. At this point, freedom is just a concept that seems quite far from reach. The little spider in my room is still alive, thankfully so I played with it (by playing I mean I took macro photographs). And I guess if this continues the spider will have to endure my pathetic rants. Who else is there to listen?

My trusty Macro gear - Olympus 60mm F2.8 Macro lens and FL50R fired wirelessly off camera, with a softbox

I took a much better shot this time. More about the shot setup below

When I wrote about the lockdown situation a few weeks ago, it was approaching a month of lockdown, and some people commented - "oh it has just been a few weeks, surely the number of cases will go down soon, just hang in there". Well, it is now 2 months. The number of cases has not come down that much, we still have almost 6000 new daily infections every day. It does not take a genius to see that the lockdown has lost its effectiveness. It may have worked before, but continued use will not yield the same degree of success. What the repeated cycle of lockdowns can guarantee however, is the irreparable damage it has caused to everyone. I am not an expert, but tell me this - the lockdown is placed to bring the number of cases down. So, if after 2 months the numbers don't go down, you still continue with the lockdown for another month. And another. And another. If you turn on the light switch and it did not light, and you flick it a few more times, you will soon realize something is not right with the switch. To continue to switch it on and off won't bring the light back on, you got to find another solution and fix the problem. Well, I am just a small peanut, what does my voice matter any way. Let's just all suffer and drown in silence here in the lockdown. 

Moving onto a more positive note, the podcast video series, #ROBINSPEAKS which I started a few weeks ago was a success. I did not expect this. I initially expected the long form video format to flop. I cannot imagine people would listen to me rant for half an hour long. The viewership of the podcast videos were strong, and seated at top of the recent 10 videos I released on my YouTube, though the recent videos have suffered a dip in viewership due to lower quality content made during the lockdown. Nevertheless, I still celebrate this small win, it is not easy making content given the current circumstances, and I am glad I can still continue to make something out of completely nothing! 

What most people did not realize was how much effort and time I put into these podcast videos. Well, not that I am lacking time, and it is a good thing I started this now, since I have extra time to burn. I spent about 4 hours or more to film each episode, though it was mostly just talking head shot in one location, with the camera mounted on a static tripod. For episode 1, I shot the whole session, then edited the whole video in 3 hours, so effectively I spent one full day to make one episode. The next day, I decided the audio was not good enough, because the microphone was placed too far, So I reshot the entire session and the whole process repeated itself, consuming another full day just for that same episode. Same thing happened with episode 2. I had no issue with the video part, but audio recording was quite new to me, and I never cared so much about audio recording before because my videos are usually about 10 minutes long. Now that the podcast video is 30 minutes long and to expect people to stick around with me that long, I do have to make sure my voice sounds better. Furthermore, I speak at length and in greater depths of the topics I cover, with no fancy B-rolls or nice looking images, just me speaking on and on, so how I sound was more critical. 

I was waiting for the spider to show the fangs. 

Finally got one with some details of the fangs. Though this image was heavily cropped. 

I tricked the spider to jump onto a wooden board, so I have a nicer background to work with

I like how the wooden grain matches the spider's color 

I am soooooo noob in recording audio. Been going through video tutorials and articles and I still mess up so much. From microphone placements, to speaking into microphone dos and don'ts, there is so much to learn and improve on. Then there is the editing part - I have never touched noise reduction, compressor, de-esser, expander, and all other fancy adjustments before. I did play with basic EQ for most of my videos previously. Maybe I am over-thinking but I guess this is also the right time to pick up a new skill, or improve my audio understanding and producing aspect of my content creation. I was not happy with all my current released 3 episodes. My issue is with consistency, as I moved a lot, and the microphone is sensitive to movement. Also I am not willing to fork extra cash for a better microphone, I made do with what I have, a shotgun microphone designed to be placed on top of a camera, which may not be the best solution for indoor podcast style recording. I guess I can complain on and on but I just have to finish an episode and just hit the publish button. I will improve slowly, for the coming episodes. 

Coming back to the spider - I don't think it is scared of me at all. Sometimes it would jump onto my table. So I decided to take a few shots. This time, I tricked the spider to climb onto a wooden board, so I have a nicer background to work with. I did not touch the spider, that's against my principles. The spider did not move much, and was very cooperative, posing for me. I guess the spider knew I was not a threat? I don't know. Since it was a flat surface, I can compose my shots better too, and get closer. I have shared my shooting techniques and my gear setup here (click) here if you are interested. 

Freedom seems further and further away. 

I don't know what I did to deserve this. Maybe the spider will understand. Let me talk to him. 

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Obviously I have too much time, and I can't shoot much being trapped in this tiny miserable room during lockdown in Malaysia, so I thought hey why not do a podcast style, longer format videos of me speaking to you guys? The difference between this new series and my usual videos is - I can speak more freely and openly in a more relaxed manner, commenting on various topics on photography industry, trends or new products, as well as sharing a little bit more about myself. The idea has been lingering at the back of my mind for a while now, and I finally did it. First episode has just dropped and you can see the video here (click). 

New video series #ROBINSPEAKS. Episode 1 is here, go watch it now (click). 

The problem with making videos on YouTube - for the algorithm to work, typically for smaller channels your videos cannot be too long. Ideally it has to be around 10-12 minutes mark, anything too long will hurt the channel. Therefore, I am making these videos in the new series not really to grow the audience, but to engage the current audience. I am not reaching out to new people with these longer format videos, but to speak more openly with my existing followers, blog readers or YouTube subscribers. I will discuss more lengthily on topics without worrying about time limit or dragging the video too long, I will be more candid and casual about answering difficult questions and I will share more information about myself. I guess this is a more effectively way to open myself up and to connect to people that actually do care. And I know, you guys are here, and many of you genuinely care. I appreciate that, and I thank you for being here. 

For this first video of #ROBINSPEAKS series, I started it easy with several topics. I shared what happened recently on the E-P7 and 8-25mm lens releases and I was not informed about the products before launch and did not get any samples for reviews. I also shared my current situation and how I am coping with the recent total lockdown in Malaysia. There was a little photo sharing on the jumping spider I blogged about yesterday, perhaps it would be beneficial for the YouTube audience who do not come to this blog. Also, I took this opportunity to answer some YouTube comments directly, some asking which camera wrist strap that I used, what happened to my body (I look different now), questions about video shooting and also flash on E-M1 Mark II. I took my time to answer these questions and also sprinkled some interesting facts about me, for those who wanted to get to know me better. I don't intend to go on more than 30 minutes long for each video. Ideally, maybe around 25-30 minutes mark would be tolerable. I don't want these videos to become like an hour long podcast, even I can't stand listening to my own voice for that long. 

Do let me know what you think of this new format video, and if you want it to be a regular thing. Do you think 30 minutes is too long? What topics would you want me to discuss or talk openly about in future episodes? Let me know! 

Last but not least, huge thanks for all the kind messages and positive vibes, I appreciate your support and honestly, you just being here made all the difference. I am truly fortunately to have this wonderful and caring community of blog readers/YouTube subscribers. Don't worry, I am doing OK, I just need to go through what I have to go through, I have always been honest, and I will continue to do so, sharing a bit more about myself here, and in my videos. 

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Side Note: Stop asking me about the newly launched Olympus E-P7 and 8-25mm PRO lens. I don't have them. There is nothing I can tell you more than what you already know from the official announcements. 

I guess it came with no surprise that the total lockdown which was placed in effect from 1-14 June was now extended to end of the month (news article here). The partial lockdown started in May (total lockdown started June), and it has been a month and a half I was trapped in my tiny little room. Currently the numbers of daily reported new cases are still running high with no signs of coming down, even after a month and a half long of various lockdowns in place (including 2 weeks full lockdown) and it is also reported that we are running out of hospital beds. If the numbers don't come down and situation does not improve, who knows maybe the whole country will be locked down for more months to come. Quite a depressing thought and seriously there is nothing anyone, or I can do at this point, but to just try to stay sane as long as possible. 

And I found a tiny jumping spider in my room. Hello!

What big eyes you have! Too bad the fangs are hidden, the fangs do look quite cool too. 
This image was obviously cropped. Full uncropped images more down below. 

I'd rather have my room clean from any insects, bugs or spiders, but I guess these little creatures are everywhere and I can't keep them out 100%. So the next best thing is to take out my macro gear and take some shots. Those of you who suggested "hey Robin why don't you do macro photography in your room?", I ask you this - ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

The shooting technique was quite straightforward and I have shared several times here over the years. If you want the full rundown of what I did, you can go to my macro shooting technique blog entry here (click). I also did a video showing how I shot my insect macro here (click). I have shared EVERYTHING from what lens, what camera, what settings, how to get the shot, wireless flash, how I diffuse my flash, seriously every single detail! I did not hide anything. 

I don't think the spider will survive long. I saw a lizard lurking around somewhere. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro, FL-LM3 flash attached on camera, FL-50R Olympus flash fired wirelessly off camera, diffused with a square softbox. 

General camera settings: 1/160, F8-11, ISO200, Flash on manual, adjusted accordingly. 

Lighting is critical for macro, there are many ways you can light your subject. The popular choice is using flash, and just make sure it is diffused properly. Using a large softbox is a safe technique. 

That Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens is an optical wonder. Even after all these years the lens is possibly the best macro lens in the market. The image quality it renders is second to none. 

There are many, many ways to get a good macro shot. To get sufficient magnification (getting close and have the subject appear large in your frame), you can either use a dedicated macro lens like the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro, or use various other techniques like extension tubes, macro converters, or even reversed lens ring attachment. You can even use a combination of different methods (say a macro lens and an additional converter) to achieve even more magnification. There is no right or wrong, just find the right method for your needs. 

Insects, or in this case the jumping spider did not stay still for very long. It jumps, because, you know, the name jumping spider. I don't think setting up a tripod and shooting using manual focus is very practical. I need to move whenever the spider moves, no matter how slightly. Being able to shoot hand-held is a huge bonus point. The Olympus cameras support powerful 5-Axis IS, which helps stabilize the live view on LCD or EVF, you don't get crazy shaky viewfinder when framing the spider. The active image stabilization will aid in steadying your view, which prevents headaches and help the shooting process much smoother. 

The spider was quite cooperative. It did stop and pose for me for at least a few seconds before jumping off. It did not seem to be afraid of me, it was just moving around merrily, but not away from me, or hiding in impossible spots. I did not get many good shots, but just a few good ones. 

I somehow wish the spider was green, or blue in color, but I guess that's too much to ask for. 

I quickly realize shooting too low of an angle, though at the eye level of the spider, may not be the best composition option. The spider was hiding in between gaps, though not disappearing from me completely, it did not die deeper into the gap. On normal cases this would be difficult to shoot because of dim light. This explains why I used the wireless flash off camera, I can position the light wherever I want and get sufficient light to hit the spider. 

This was an uncropped image, showing how small the spider was. This image was at full 2:1 magnification. Meaning this was the maximum magnification that the lens is capable of, and the spider was probably only 8mm in size (half of the frame, which was 17mm in length). 

I should have probably stopped down the aperture further for this shot to see more of the body and legs in focus. 

Another close crop, still revealing massive amount of fine details. 

I know some of my friends would catch the insects from their garden or the park, and then freeze them in the refrigerator. The bugs are cold blooded, they won't die, but the low temperature will slow them down. As they were frozen, then they would move the bugs and pose them in grass or leaves or branches and even spray them with droplets of water, making the dramatic look. 

I think that is cruel, inhumane, and falls into the category of animal cruelty. Please, I beg you, don't touch the bugs. Leave them alone. Please be a little more respectful to nature. 

I don't know how to feel about the extended lockdown, with high possibilities of further extension. To be entirely honest, even shooting that tiny spider was not so fun any more. I miss being able to find more colorful bugs to photograph. And if I bring my camera out to the park, I get fined RM10,000 (USD2,500), even if I was shooting bugs alone. 

What happens to a man when is confined in a small space against his will for an extended period of time? Maybe I will be a case study. We will find out, won't we?

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