Sorry to bug you... But when I came across the Microsculpture project from UK photographer Levon Biss and his exhibit at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, I said to myself, “What a great visual arts story about a man that is so passionate about his work!”. It's a story about a project that encompasses a wide range of disciplines from science (entomology), photography, microscopy, digital imaging, digital asset management, color management, and large format printing.
Levon Biss is a talented portrait and sports photographer from London. He has teamed up with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to embark on an amazing macro photography project, where he has captured some incredibly detailed images of… bugs. The museum has the second largest collection of bugs in England and as the images below illustrate, Biss chose a few of the most colorfully textured and detailed specimens to take home and put in front of his lens.
By attaching a 10x microscope objective to a 200mm prime lens in front of a 36 megapixel Nikon camera he set out to show the world bugs as they have never seen them before. He has an exhaustive photography process that involves shooting about 30 different sections of each bug, changing his lighting each time. Then for each of the 30 different areas of the bug, he shoots a stack of images changing the focus by only 10 microns each time. As he describes in the video below, a human hair is about 75 microns thick. He does this because of the incredible thin depth of field of the microscope lens. He ends up with about 8,000 - 10,000 images(!) of each bug that he then meticulously composites together in Photoshop.
The result of his incredible efforts are about 25 images of various beetles, bees and flies that have a seemingly endless amount of depth, detail and structure as the photo below shows. Check them out for yourself on this interactive website. Seriously. You have to click that link. Now… It's amazing imagery. According to Biss, each final composite image takes 2 to 3 weeks from start to finish to complete.
Biss then had the final images reproduced to 6 x 10 foot panels on a Jetrix large format inkjet printer. The gigantic prints will be on display at the museum alongside the actual tiny bug specimen from May 27 to October 30.He doesn’t mention in the video how he cataloged and managed the approximately 200,000 photos for the project, but he no doubt would have benefited from a great DAM system. ;)