Olympus Macro Walkabout at KL Butterfly Park

Earlier this morning, I was leading a group of Olympus photo enthusiasts to shoot insect macro at Butterfly Park, KL, and boy it was a fun morning! Together with me was Amir Ridhwan, an Olympus enthusiast who shoots mainly macro, someone whom I have looked up to and learned a lot from (my own macro shooting techniques were derived from his own). We spent about 3 hours in the park, attacking all sorts of bugs and spiders. Most of the participants do not have the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, and was only using the humble kit lens 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 but I assured them that the lens was already very good to begin with, enabling quite decent close up shooting, something that kit lenses from other manufacturers cannot do. 

When the walkabout was happening I did not do much shooting myself. Instead I spent all the time doing demonstrations and guiding the group to get the shots. Therefore, only after the sessions ended at noon, that I stayed back a few more hours at the park shooting for myself, getting some shots as shown in this entry. I have not done macro for a while now, and it was nice hunting the bugs again. There was just something about shooting macro that gets me, and I shall save those thoughts for another blog entry perhaps. 

Also, if you have not known Amir Ridhwan, please visit his Flickr Stream here. He has so many amazing shots. 

Personally, I armed myself with the OM-D E-M10 with both 12-50mm and macro lens 60mm F2.8. I also work with the FL-50R external flash. For full description of how I got my macro shots (camera setttings, flash reflector, and shooting techniques) please visit my blog entries here and here

Before we start, lets take a selfie! Taken with E-M10 and the fisheye bodycap lens, 9mm F8. Trust me that body cap lens is built for taking selfie, it is so wide I can still do distortion correction to correct the curved lines (due to fisheye effect of the lens) and still have a very wide coverage for this group shot. And image sharpness was quite reasonable too. 

M.Zuiko 12-50mm kit lens, 1/400sec, F6, ISO200. macro mode enabled, no flash
Amir Ridhwan was using TG-3 primarily and demonstrating the microscopic capabilities of the camera. He got too up close and personal with that mantis. More photos later leading to this shot, at the end of this entry. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/40sec, F5, ISO250, no flash
I have been to the butterfly park many times and rarely do I find the butterflies having sex. Maybe they were too shy to do it when too many people were around. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/100sec, F7.1, ISO250, wireless TTL Flash with Shoebox Reflector
This image was taken with the M.Zuiko 60mm lens at close to full magnification of 1:1x. The jumping spider was really tiny, perhaps only 2-3cm in body length (or smaller, my visual estimation is quite bad in these things).

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/160sec, F13, ISO320, wireless TTL Flash with Shoebox Reflector
When I was approaching this fat tiny spider, it was eating the prey at the background. This was one particularly tough subject to approach. The spider and its prey were surrounded by web, with small twigs and leaves blocking the direct line of fire from the lens. Touch one of these things and the spider senses danger and will retreat to his safe position. So I went about and shot other bugs before coming back to this spider again, as shown below. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/100sec, F13, ISO320, wireless TTL Flash with Shoebox Reflector
Finally, I got this shot. Take note how much larger the victim was in comparison to the size of the tiny spider. Not my best photograph because the lighting was rather harsh (burned highlights) but it was seriously difficult to achieve this. Imagine having to crouch, holding your breath, and shooting through all blocking leaves and branches. There was a chance of wind blowing and slightly shaking the subjects, causing possible blur. I tell you, one hour of doing this is equivalent to three hours of tennis. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/40sec, F2.8, ISO250, no flash
I took this shot to intentionally show the importance of using a flash, or whatever additional lighting you have. Trust me, the subject will not just display itself out in the open where available light was perfect, most of the time they are hiding underneath a leaf, or a tree, or a bush, mostly in dark shadows, and you are shooting them against bright background. A flash to balance the surrounding light would be ideal and to produce a well exposed subject. As shown in the next photograph. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/40sec, F3.5, ISO250, wireless TTL Flash with Shoebox Reflector
The details in the wings, as well as the body and head are revealed with the use of a wireless flash. It was a very weak flash engaged, perhaps shot at -1.7EV, just sufficient to light the shadow areas. Most people thought that the flash at short distance will just blindly whiten everything out. It all comes down to your control of the camera settings and the flash itself. Most flash units allow you to tone down the power, and it is extremely important to be able to blend the flash with ambient light. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/100sec, F8, ISO250, wireless TTL Flash with Shoebox Reflector
I admit this was not the best "eye shot" of the dragonfly's eye. I purposely shoot this, just to showcase the ability of Olympus Macro lens to resolve the fine detail. One of the participants actually said that her friends commented Olympus system is not capable of doing so, and only the bigger cameras (insert your camera choice) can do so. SUCH RUBBISH! Those people who spread such false claims should BURN! Olympus is just as capable (how many macro shots do I have to shoot to prove this) or even better when it comes to shooting insect macro. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/125sec, F6.3, ISO250, wireless TTL Flash with Shoebox Reflector
Just a damselfly. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/160sec, F13, ISO320, wireless TTL Flash with Shoebox Reflector
This was one difficult spider to spot, because all I saw was one blob of white patch, until I realized it was indeed a spider web (very tiny at that). And behind the white patch, there was a white spider. So I went around and took another shot as shown below. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/160sec, F13, ISO320, wireless TTL Flash with Shoebox Reflector
Basically the same spider as before, but I rotated the image so it was easier for our eyes to see. This was another super difficult shot to shoot. I was again, dangerously near the web, and should I touch it surely the spider would not stay there. I did not have a good footing, was stepping on soft uncompacted soil, and nothing to brace myself on. This was taken at full 1:1 magnification, and I cropped the image slightly. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/100sec, F9, ISO320, wireless Flash with Shoebox Reflector
This small spider was so fast, that it reacted to my first flash burst, and jumped away before the second flash was fired. In case you are not familiar with TTL flash, the system fires two bursts of flash. The first was to aid the camera and flash to determine the optimum setting, and once that is obtained, the flash will fire together with the camera shutter the second time, to get the photograph. The spider reacted to the first burst and was always out of position. The solution? Use full manual flash of course So there was only one burst. 

M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/40sec, F4, ISO250, no flash
When the lighting is good, there is no need for flash. The reason why I do not shoot a lot of butterflies is because of the broken wings mostly, and this happened surely because of the net surrounding the park, and when the butterflies tried to escape the wings got tangled somehow. 

With arms wide open!

Olympus Tough TG-3 with a new friend!

With so many advanced technologies in Olympus Micro Four Thirds system, the wireless TTL flash, the 5-Axis or 3-Axis Image Stabilization (works better than competition, you have to use it, see it and believe it) and amazing M.Zuiko 60mm macro lens, I am sure Olympus excels when it comes to shooting macro. Even the kit lens, 12-50mm can do very decent close up for those bugs that are not too tiny. 

The group was not too big, and I hope everyone had fun shooting macro this morning! I had so much fun myself, and I have my photographs to prove that!


  1. "SUCH RUBBISH! Those people who spread such false claims should BURN!"...I grin when i read this sentence....you are to mean Robin...hehehe....btw, nice sharing as always...haven't been bored reading your post every time you share it, and of course the photos also...

  2. RUBBISH - LOL! Neat photos! I, too, really enjoy using the 12-50 kit lens in macro mode, and have gotten some wonderful images. BTW, why was the young woman using white foam around her lens? Diffuser effect? How was the experiences of the fellow who was using the TOUGH camera? And, how do they keep the bugs from escaping :-)

    1. Yeah, I am curious about this technique as well. How well does the white foam stuff work as a flash-diffuser? Looks like a great way to get better shots out of the "el cheapo" macro setup i am running (the 60/2.8M is just a tad too expensive at this point, so i am stuck with E-M10 + 12-50).

    2. i was also puzzled by the use of the foam, but i don't think it's used to diffuse the flash because it's too thick, it would only reflect the flash burst into photographers eyes. what i'm thinking is , that it's used as a reflector to reflect the available light onto the subject

    3. Now there's an idea, I didn't even think of this. It would also explain the size of the thing.

  3. It's hard for me to put into words how awesome you are in taking photos. You're really in high level of professionalism when it comes on Photography. If you have time, please visit my new camera blog and share your expertise with me. Thank you. http://www.mycameraphotography.com/

  4. Hi Robin,

    From where can i buy Olympus gear in Dubai, UAE ? Is there a distributor ?



  5. Macro use of 60mm fanrastic. And if we back up to see the entire leaf or flower or plant the 60mm still performs with excellent IQ. I USE one on my EM1.love camera and lens.
    Bob for wife cathy
    Photos of burgers on veggiepowerburgers.com
    Ate them after photography.

  6. Superb Macro's Robin, wow...
    Al these years and still love you're outstanding photography !!!

    Greetings from Amsterdam!

  7. Great photos. I'm planning on investing in the Olympus system and love macro work. I've used Canon macro lenses and I can say the photos here equal what I've taken with the Canon 100mm. Adding the Olympus 25mm extension tube to the 60mm macro would allow for even better details. Your blogs and photos have really helped me decide to go Olympus and not dslr. I can't take all that weight any more at my age either. I was afraid I'd have to sacrifice image quality by going mirrorless. The proof is in the images. Awesome!