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.
I photograph the insect in approximately 30 different sections, depending on the size of the specimen. Each section is lit differently with strobe lights to bring out the micro sculptural beauty of that particular section of the body. For example, I will light and shoot just one antennae, then after I have completed this area I will move onto the eye and the lighting set up will change entirely to suit the texture and contours of that part of the body. I continue this process until I have covered the whole surface area of the insect.
Due to the inherent shallow depth of field that microscope lenses provide, 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.
I repeat this process over the entire body of the insect and once I have 30 fully focused sections I bring them together in Photoshop to create the final image. From start to finish, a final photograph will take around 3 weeks to shoot, process and retouch.
– Levon Biss
Steffen Dam Glass Specimens
Steffen originally trained as a toolmaker, and worked for some years as such, before realising his curiosity spanned more than that which is measurable. In glass he found these qualities. The uncompromising nature of this material exactly fitted the precise and analytic way of thinking that he was taught in constructing industrial tools.
During his first ten years of glass making, Steffen was practising and experimenting with all the different techniques to become a good craftsman. While doing so, he discovered a new kind of beauty in the fringes of the well-crafted glass he was making. In the area of mistakes and faults – the unwanted air bubbles, ash marks, soot, cracks and crookedness – he found something that could not be predicted or sketched beforehand. He set the established and traditional techniques aside and started making glass all “wrong” in an attempt to capture the good in the bad. Out of these experiments came the “Fossils”, “Plants” and other objects – like frozen extracts of chaos to be watched undisturbed.
The Field Museum’s Striped Hyena Diorama Conservation
Scaly-foot gastropod (Crysomallon squamiferum)
2.78 kilometers (1.7 miles) underneath the surface of the Indian Ocean, hydrothermal vents are spewing out water around 350°C (660°F). Even in these extreme conditions, diversity is abundant for those lifeforms which have adapted to the seemingly inhospitable ecosystem. One of the wackiest and most impressive creatures from this particular area is the scaly-foot gastropod (Crysomallon squamiferum), a snail with a shell of iron and plates of chainmail covering its otherwise squishy foot. This is the only animal in the world with a skeleton made of iron: two types, pyrite and greigite,* encrust scales of conchiolin – a hard, horn-like substance that coats the shell and parts of the foot.
The complete functionality of armor and scales is not entirely clear – it’s possible they exist for protection against predators. Another hypothesis suggests that bacteria living on the exterior of the snail assist in detoxifying the noxious sulfides ejected from the ‘black smoker’ vents, resulting in the growth of the iron sulfide armor. In addition to this just being awesome on its own, researchers at MIT are curious to know if the snail’s design could help inspire other types of armor.
Additionally, the snails are just massive, considering their environment. Food sources are scarce down there, but these guys don’t even need to eat – they get all of their energy through a process of chemosynthesis, in which the bacteria living in their guts produce the nutrients required for sustained life. As a result, these snails are about three times the size of other hydrothermal vent snails.
Anne ten Donkelaar created the series ‘Broken Butterflies’ out of a collection of damaged butterflies. Looking at them, Anne decided to repair each one differently according to their needs. She restored body parts using gold, old maps, roots, threads and embroidery and gave the insects new names, names that reveal something about their recovery. For example the The ‘Blauw spinner’ looked like it had died the moment it hatched from its cocoon. So Anne made the body hang from a twig wrapped with blue thread. A few threads are still hanging loose , almost as though >the butterfly is slowly unwinding and breaking free from its cocoon.
‘Campi Phlegraei’ was first published in 1776 with a supplementary volume released three years later covering the 1779 Vesuvius eruption. The first volume consists mainly of letters sent by Hamilton to the Royal Society with the majority of plates appearing in volume two. The sketches by Pietro Fabris were reproduced as sixty two engravings for the publication and were assiduously hand-coloured in gouache.