Old Macro Shots

I have always had strong fascination for the tiny world of insects and spiders, partially thanks to strong inspiration and much kind guidance from fellow Olympus shooter Amir Ridhwan. There was a time I dedicated most of my shooting time in the weekend looking for macro subjects, and worked very hard to improve my lighting setup and shooting techniques. I only had my trusty Olympus E-520 and the budget, yet very useful and sharp Olympus Zuiko Digital 35mm F3.5 macro lens, which I wished I did not sell off. It was probably one of the lenses which I regretted selling, and wished to buy back when I intend to get back to the  insect macro game. Then suddenly the Sony happened unexpectedly, so now the 35mm macro will have to wait. 

Digging through my old archives, as far back as 2009 (not that far back actually, but I have first picked up a DSLR in 2008, so I was fairly new back then when I took the shots in this blog entry) I found many photographs which brought back memories. There were times I braved the rain in the butterfly park, shooting butterflies with water droplets on their eyes and wings. There were times I ventured into the reserved forest in the middle of the night (we went in at 9.30pm and got out from the jungle some time between 1.00am-2.00am) for night insect macro hunt. Those were the times of real adventures I dare say, somehow the process of hunting for subjects was a huge part of the excitement. When I found something I have not encountered before, the adrenaline rush was like nothing I have felt before, and as I worked the camera and flash to capture the shots, it felt "victorious". Ok, that was not exactly the best word to describe my feeling, but it was a great feeling, and it stayed on even until now, when I viewed back the old photographs. They say that emotional connection you have when you made the photos is temporary, and you should not rely on that to judge your own photographs. Rubbish. That emotional feeling, sometimes, is what makes the whole shooting process worthwhile. Never, never disregard that. 

When you open your eyes, like really, really open your eyes, the world around you will surprise you. The beauty in nature can be hidden, and it was an indescribable joy to discover the world of macro insect and spiders.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520 and Zuiko Digital 35mm F3.5 macro, with external flash FL-36R. Images were shot in various locations around Kuala Lumpur, in the year 2009. 

They come in dozens

Molting, or changing skin

Spitting Spider

Swallowed alive

Very thin legs

Stick Insect

Rain water

Eaten alive


Lined up

Standing Still

100% crop from previous image. That 35mm F3.5 lens is crazy sharp for something so cheap. 

Baby Mantis

Sweet Finger

Amstrong, a fellow macro shooter in action. 

The drawback of the 35mm lens, you have got to move in very, very close. Not ideal for very sensitive subjects. 

So why look back to older photographs? Should we not move on and make better and new ones? True, I agree to that. I also believe it is important to take a pause from time to time and really look into what we have done and accomplished so far, and pick out the images that we truly enjoy shooting. I find myself enjoying my macro shooting immensely, probably even more than street shooting. The only reason I do not do macro as often as I like, is the difficulties of travel, and jungle trekking, hill climbing, those are activities that are extremely physically challenging, not to mention time consuming. A typical, productive macro session would last at least 4 hours long, and even so I would only come home with a few useable images, unlike a street shooting session which I could just shoot for less than an hour and have enough images to over-fill a blog entry. Time and energy are something I find I do not have much luxury of. 

After viewing all the macro shots, I suddenly realized how I missed Olympus colors, after spending so much time with Sony lately. There is just that unique warmth, something soothing, something beautiful about the way Olympus renders color, even from the old E-520, and thankfully the magic formula stays on with my current main workhorse E-5. The Sony does color very well too, but it is lacking something. I do not know quite how to put this in words. Perhaps this is a matter of personal preference. Perhaps Sony has improved their color reproduction in newer camera generations (they have got to). After having such wonderful color tones from Olympus, it is just so hard to look away. 

Of course, those images in this blog entry were taken more than 3 years ago, when I was just starting out in photography. Yes I did wish I have improved my lighting method, which seemed very harsh and uneven in some shots. I also wished I have composed some shots better. Nonetheless, there were so many things that could have been done differently, but those were the results I have obtained in those days. The insects and spiders were real. The thrill while I found the macro subjects were true. The excitement and rush as I click the shutter button, reviewing the image and then redo the whole process to make sure I get that best shot, were still fresh. Those are the reasons why I love doing macro. It was as if you have found a Tiger hunting down a Zebra and then chewing the zebra's leg off, posing in such a beautiful manner, and you were standing at the most auspcious shooting position, using just the right lens with the perfect focal length, and the lighting was just nice. That "national geographic" feeling. Hey, every boy can dream his dream. Or maybe I have watched and read too much of that awesome Life of Pi. 

Any macro shooter out there? Do share your feeling when you shoot !!


  1. Robin, Right on! Superb photos, as ever. Only photography can reveal to our eyes the worlds within worlds surrounding us. Your description of the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of a successful capture shows the heart of a true photographer.

  2. One word: stunning. Excellent photographs. And as the good reverend above worded it so eloquently: you've got the heart (and eye) of a true photographer.

    1. Thanks Andre, I don't think those are excellent photos at all, but I sure had a hell of a good time shooting them.

  3. Macro and Protrait are 2 of my favorite subjects and the reason for my purchase of the 45/1.8, 60/2.0 and 75/1.8 lens for my OMD. Its something that every photographers can get to enjoy on his own. I am trying to develop an interest in street shooting and have much to learn thus the reason for buying the 12/1.8.

    Many tks to Robin for all his wonderful and honest articles and his personal views on the lens above. Great work as usual.

    1. Thanks Daniel. I am very sure you will love street shooting, it is a mix of a lot of things!! OMD is the right camera, small and easy to carry around, without looking intimidating.

  4. From the day you start shooting with your Sony gear you always compare the color it produce with Olympus color. Might as well saving up a new funding to buy a 2nd hand m4/3 gear?I do find that you did not shoot with your E-PL1 lately, what happen? But in overall of the post, the picture look really stunning Robin!!You are the reason I'm trapped with Olympus.Thank you so much!

    1. Hello Ashraf,
      To me color is very important, even more important than high ISO performance or dynamic range. Sony did color very well, but it still lacks the magic Olympus has. Hence the constant comparison and complains, but to be honest, Sony still does color fairly well, much better than what I am seeing from Nikon and Canon (no offense, just personal opinion here).
      E-PL1 is still there. The slow AF is really a put off, not something I can endure for most of my shooting needs. It did slow me down, and I missed more shots than I liked when I shoot on the street. I did mention my main focus was on my main gear E-5, with Zuiko 4/3 system, not the micro 4/3 system, hence I won't spend too much on micro 4/3 either.
      Sony was an unexpected addition, and I am warming up to it. Lets not make conclusions too early, I am loving the joy of discovering everything new !

  5. I'm on your line, Robin. and me too find Sony's color better than canon or nikon. m4/3 is too expensive and I sold my EPl-1 with all lenses to upgrade sony's gear. later I'll buy another mirrorless, but I do not know if it'll be Oly or a Nex camera. I decided to buy Sony in the same moment as you, but i don't want to imitate you. I found a good deal and i tried. now I like sony very much

  6. Hi Robin. Can come Zuiko Digital 35mm F3.5 Macro NikonD5000 the machine and you need to buy, such as the adapter ring? Thank you, Victor

    1. Victor, I do not understand your question. If you are asking if you can use the Olympus 35mm macro on a Nikon body, that is not possible.

  7. Peter Sands, Hobart, Tasmania12/08/2012 07:02:00 PM

    G'day Robin!

    Been a while since I had time to read your blogs, but not for lack of interest! A couple of comments from this one:

    First, I'm impressed with the quality you got from your 35 mm macro. I'm longing for a macro lens for my EPL-2. I tried a friend's 35 mm on my EPL-2, but auto focusing was so iffy. I also tried my Micro-Nikkor f3.5/55mm via an adapter, but struggle to get the manual focusing sharp. If I could get an extension ring I'd give my 45mm mZuiko a go for macro ... else save up for the 60 mm macro as well as an EM-5!

    My second point is about looking back at images from the past. I love doing that as it really brings memories back ... which is one reason for taking photos, anyway. Good photos don't have to be technically perfect to "work" (in what ever way), so we shouldn't got over concerned about our past performance. To the contrary, I am often quite impressed with some of my old photos, and I mean old, may be 50 years old! I can see I was instinctively doing things right, and that too gives pleasure.

    Best wishes,