Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Butterfly Park KL

While I was shooting at the Bird Park not too long ago (click) I had a privilege to bump into this really cool photographer by the name of Saiful (who uses a sexy Nikon D300) and he generously shared a tip about butterfly photography with me. He said that the butterflies would all come flying out in the open right after the rain, hence the timing was one important factor. Interesting enough, I woke up to a rainy morning KL sky on last Sunday, and by noon the sky almost cleared up, this I rushed my way with my gears to the Butterfly Park, which was situated conveniently adjacent to the Bird Park. True enough, after the rain the butterflies were swarming all over the places. You guys must think I am getting crazily obsessed with taking pictures, I am starting to believe it too, whether it is a good thing, it depends on your opinion.


I was not very keen about butterfly photography at the first place, due to the fact that I do not own a macro lens at the moment. I have come across numerous articles online suggesting that for good insect/butterfly photography, it is deemed crucial to possess a good macro lens to be able to capture the subjects from a considerably safe distance without disturbing their natural activities, while obtaining reasonably blown up size, magnifying the important tiny details of the creatures.


But I was also pondering the fact that I am never going to have a macro lens of any kind anytime soon, unless the sky rains gold or something, so what the hell !!! I am not just gonna sit around wishing I have something that I could not afford at the moment, and just go out and do with what I can with all that I have now. That was what I did exactly, and I threw almost everything I have got for this session of photography.

The butterfly park itself was not that huge to begin with, for a normal person visiting the place you might have finished making a full round within 15 minutes an hour, but if you are there for photogtaphy purposes, and you intend to get some good shots, your time spent would be dragged on for hours. The place was like a garden, housing the butterflies under a net set up on the open roof.

Flowers were planted everywhere for the butterflies, and the entire set-up was looking very pleasing, but not overwhelmingly breathtaking.

The variety of butterflies were not exactly that wide in range, and you kept seeing the same ugly ones all over, and really have to squint your eyes to spot the really different and pretty ones.



Since the whole place was built like a netted cage to prevent the escape of the butterflies, the poor little creatures must have their wings caught by the wires and chipped off. Many of them have broken and weathered wings, and it was very sad seeing them that way. And God knows what those evil little kids would do to the butterflies if they flew too close to those itchy hands.

Photographing the butterflies was nothing short of a total nightmare. I have mentioned that not having a macro lens made the whole thing rather challenging to begin with, but I did not expect such level of difficulty until I was there shooting. For the first few rounds going around the place, I used tele zoom lens, shooting 1.5m distance away from the butterfly, which gave me plenty of clearance as not to disturb the butterflies, yet able to get considerably close shots. Composition with tele lens was very limited, since I could not move in closer than 1.5m.

Therefore, for the subsequent rounds, I went in with my standard kit lens, with and without the macro filter adapted onto it to capture closer shots, going as close as 5cm away from the butterfly, but the main disadvantage was that, not many butterflies would love seeing the lens too close to them. Composition wise was a total disaster, and many of my shots came out really bad.




You may think that those butterflies look lovely, but after photographing them, you would definitely feel like killing every single freaking one of them. My goodness, they NEVER stay still at one spot, and kept hopping from one flower to the other so rapidly and randomly that it was tough to predict where they would land next. Even when they paused at one flower for a "drink" they kept moving up and down, and flipped their wings like nobody's business.

Chasing them, and trying to focus properly was very, very energy draining. 30 minutes of shooting the butterflies was actually a heck lot more exhausting than 3 hours of shooting at the zoo, and I am not kidding you mate !!

Oh I have not talked much about those little evil creatures. Most of the time they would hide behind leaves or branches, blocking your direct lens view to them. Or they would choose the deepest shade they could find, or just flew pass you by without even stopping. It was hard enough to spot some of those really colourful and unique ones, but it was even harder to pull out really usable shots, provided those horrific situations. And then there were those little monkeys uncivilised kids who would merrily came along and tried to catch the butterflies, scaring those poor creatures away, causing me to miss many good shots.




To obtain the shots in this entry, I have thrown in almost everything that I have got. I have used up almost every single piece of limited equipments I store in my bad, minus the macro lens that I never had. I have also adopted almost every techniques I could think of to isolate the subjects and bring out the focus, which was still not really properly pulled out to my own expectations. But do check out the "bokeh" (blurred background) though.... very sexy I must say.

The entire place was rather shaded as well, with heavy bushes and many branches, thus lighting was a huge problem. This was one of the few extreme cases that I had to pop up my internal flash and use it to fill in to adequately compensate the ridiculously dark shadowy areas. Using the internal flash also had another advantage, allowing me to shoot at much higher speed without the compromise of adopting ridiculously high ISO setting, thus producing much cleaner and noise free, yet brightly lit and well exposed pictures.

On the other hand, achieving higher shutter speed also enabled me to freeze the movements of the butterfly, which tended to blur out very easily.



The only regret was not predicting the fact that I might use the flash, else I would have thought of some cheap DIY methods to difuse the flash output. You can differentiate the flash photos from the non-flash ones by identifying the level of noise (grains) in the picture, the smoother and cleaner images are the ones taken with flash, since I used ISO 200 setting or less.

So guys, do let me know what you think of my butterflies. Of course, if you search up the professional pictures and make comparisons, my pictures are far from perfect, and many aspects could be improved, especially in the composition criteria, but hey, this was my first time doing a real macro photography with a DSLR, without a macro lens. I believe with what I had, and what I could do, I have done pretty ok. There is always room for improvement, and this session will be useful when I am shooting similar photography in near future, since I know what to expect and I shall be more prepared. Every experience counts. After all, I am still at the learning and exploring stage, and discovering different categories of photography is an immense joy itself, whatever the outcome may be.

Now the song "Butterfly Kisses" from Michael Bolton got stuck on my head. Truly a great song, that is.


  1. Wah.. Hou leng ah... I never tried taking pics like yours.. maybe I should try one day :D

  2. hey ahlost,
    Thanks rose. yes yes !!! You must put ur canon to work for you.. ahahaha...

  3. Waahhh....

    allen, got house warming o not? ahahahahaa...

    Will update the links soon !! well done on the move man...

    welcome to the world of dot com. Eh, wait, im still at blogspot LOL

  4. Really nice photos! i love bokeh and your photos look great. The dalmation butterfly, at first I thought you photoshoped a reflection at the bottom half of the flower, but upon closer inspection, i was wrong... hehe. Love that picture too.

    Anyway, nice work as usual. Keep it up!

    Take care,

    - Long time silent reader : )

  5. hey liaw,
    whoahhhh..... silent reader???? OMG.. this is scary... how many silent readers do I have out there LOL...
    Anyway thanks for the compliments man, and thanks for coming back after all this while, after all the boring entries LOL...
    Yeah, i will improve myself further !!! Thanks for the encouragements man...

  6. Oh btw, the dalmation pic, it was not reflection, those are other bunch of flowers LOL... I didnt realize it looked so much like reflections !!

  7. amazing butterfly pics robin.. the last time i used my 50 macro in the melb zoo.. the lens fogged! sigh

    i think the vignetting you've applied is a little too heavy for my taste... it sorts of 'sucks out' the colour from the background

    if i'd really like to get close, need to get a macro flash and extention tubes, but thats for next time..:p

    summore poison for you- review of zuiko top pro lenses... muahaha:p


    the bokeh of the 35-100 f2 is amazing.. and so are the details!

  8. Hey brandon,
    thanks !!! whoah, how come the lens fogged? too much humidity in the air???

    Anyway... i know i did too much vigenetting, but i believe the pics look better this way, u should have seen the original pictures, the background was a little too bright and distracting. bad composition to begin with, I have played around with the editing and vigenetting this way made them look washed out, but at least it drew the eyes right to the main subject.

    Oh well, the best thing is to compose the pics properly at the first place.

    Aiyooo no $$$$ for macro lens lah, even the lowest end one ahahahaha....
    u and ur never ending poisons.. isk isk isk...

  9. the butterflies were in a greenhouse, so yeah.. the humidity and temperature was pretty high..
    i don't think you should be too harsh on your compositions.. everything seems fine to me. photog is a hobby to be enjoyed doing..

    yeap.. the cheapest 35mm f3.5 macro is round rm 1k in m'sia... so get it fr adorama.. cheaper :p

  10. hey brandon,
    Owwhhh green house, no wonder lar...
    yeah, i agree, it should be enjoyed !!

  11. wow awesome photos robin! how did u manage to get so much detail at 5 cm away from the butterflies? i can imagine u hastily grabbing your gear and rushing out of the house to get down to the park asap!

    so now that u have covered pretty much everything from architecture, animals, sea creatures and now butterflies, when are u gonna start on nudes?! LOL


  12. here's butterflies! What's next?

    let me guess. hmm....fish??? =P

  13. hey marcus,
    LOl i think i appear to be more dramatic in your imaginations ahahahah...
    Nudes??? No sexpo in Malaysia !! boo hooooo...

    hey johnson,
    LOL... fish? checked. I have taken pictures at the aquaria KLCC, do have a look there if you have not already done so. Just search aquaria at the sid bar search box.

  14. So where is your next destination? Hahaha

  15. Next destination, erm .... snake farm? erm .... snakes farm? Erm... snakess farm?? erm... snakessssss farm??


  16. I had lived in KL for several year and been there millions of times and i've never been to the bird/butterfly park, aquaria nor the zoo negara.

    can u believe that?


  17. hey johnson,
    is there such thing as a snake farm here? LOL..

    hey arth,
    ahahaha, thats because when people come to KL all they could think of is shopping !!! Nothing else but shopping... and of course clubbing.
    Maybe I should do an entry dedicated to proving that KL is more than just shopping LOL

  18. Shit, how could you take so good pix?????!!!!!

    u used your in-body flash on the shots? My body flash couldn't cover the lower frame if I use the kit lens, if i used a bigger lens, all the worse. Sigh.

    Btw, a 50mm f2.8 macro is only RM8xx mah. why don't you go get 1? With your body crop factor the distance will be long enough to shoot animals edi i think. Go robin go!

  19. hey fishtan,
    Thanks !! I used internal flash for only a few of the shots, especially those under heavy shades. If it is out under the sun, i just shoot with higher ISO, hence u can see those annoying noise.
    I dun have the problem with the lens shadow yet, maybe the crop factor does influece a bit? I have no idea.
    Ahahahaha.. 800+++++ i dun have lah u sell off ur old lens and donate some $$$ to me can???