Ultra High-Definition Bug Portraits

bug potraits levon biss

If you’ve always wanted to get up close and personal with the natural world of bugs, now is your chance. Using microphotography, photographer Levon Biss, who regularly specializes in sports photography, has captured incredibly detailed high-resolution images of insects that are explorable on the web.

The artist explains, “Each image from the Microsculpture project is created from around 8000 individual photographs. The pinned insect is placed on an adapted microscope stage that enables me to have complete control over the positioning of the specimen in front of the lens. I shoot with a 36-megapixel camera that has a 10x microscope objective attached to it via a 200mm prime lens.”

Creating a virtual grid over the insect to be photographed, Biss methodically captures individual images of some of earth’s most astounding insects. However, even more impressively, not only does Biss have to capture each section of the insect in a separate shot, he also needs to capture varying depths of each shot.

“Due to the inherent shallow depth of field that microscope lenses provide,” the artist explains “each individual photograph only contains a tiny slither of focus. To enable me to capture all the information I need to create a fully focused image, the camera is mounted onto an electronic rail that I program to move forward 10 microns between each shot. To give you an idea of how far that is, the average human hair is around 75 microns wide. The camera will then slowly move forward from the front of the insect to the back creating a folder of images that each have a thin plane of focus. Through various photo-stacking processes I flatten these images down to create a single picture that has complete focus throughout the full depth of the insect.”

By shooting each section of the insect as a different image and then stitching the thousands of individual shots together, Biss is able to maintain incredible detail in the final shot. A complete shot takes over five weeks to finish and requires much post-production work in addition to the numerous photographs. Now, as part of an upcoming exhibition at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, a select number of these beautiful shots, including popular bugs such as the Ground Beetle and the Blow Fly and less-known specimens such as the Green Tiger Beetle and Mantis Beetle, have been uploaded online in their full, high-resolution glory. Because the majority of details exist on a microscopic level, the site created a promotion of the Microsculpture exhibit that allows viewers to zoom far into the shot, thereby seeing details that are typically overlooked by the naked eye.

The exhibit will run until October of 2016 and will be showcased alongside the Museum’s existing natural history collection. Viewers can also peruse a selection of insect shots on the site. Be sure to watch the video below as well to learn more and watch how Levon Biss creates these magnificently lit and meticulously detailed shots of insect specimens.

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Category: Photography