How a personal project became an exhibition of the most beautifully photographed and detailed bugs you ever saw

Apr 27, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How a personal project became an exhibition of the most beautifully photographed and detailed bugs you ever saw

Apr 27, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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levon_biss

As a commercial portrait photographer specialising in sports, this project is a little different to the regular subjects that Levon Biss is used to shooting, but keen to make a personal project that he could pursue in his spare time which didn’t take up much space, insects became the perfect answer and that project became Microsculpture.

Originally starting the project at home using specimens his son had caught in the garden, Levon soon perfected his technique and began to produce some amazing results, that are about to be exhibited at the University of Oxford Museum of Natural History.

Working with a Nikon DSLR, a Nikon 200mm f/4 Macro lens, a selection of Bowens strobes and a microscope objective, labour intensive is definitely a phrase that can be used to describe Levon’s process.

Due to the use of the microscope objective stacked onto the end of the 200mm f/4 Macro lens, depth of field was virtually non-existent.  This meant lots of racked shots, with the camera a slightly different distance away from the subject each time until the full range was covered.

levin_microscope_lens

The camera moved only 10 microns between each shot, around 1/8th the thickness of a human hair.  Using focus stacking and compositing techniques in post, each final image is made up of anywhere between 8,000 and 10,000 individual photographs.

After approaching the museum with his results, and showing them some samples of common insects he’d shot at home, they immediately became fascinated by the work, but felt they had some more interesting specimens for him to photograph and so offered him access to their collection.

LEVON_BISS_Mantis-Fly-New-New

Each specimen put forward to become a subject of Levon’s work had to be in pristine condition, and perfectly clean, free from even the tiniest speck of dust, which could easily end up looking like a golf ball in the final result.

LEVON_BISS_Marion-Flightless-Moth-3x2m-latest-clean

Ultimately, over 99% of the museum’s collection was rejected, which resulted in about 25 individuals being prepared for their moment in the spotlight.

LEVON_BISS_Orchid-Cuckoo-Bee_Top-View

Between shooting and compositing on the computer, each image takes Levon about 2-3 weeks in total to produce, but the time spent certainly pays off well.

LEVON_BISS_Splendid-necked-Dung-Beetle

Upon showing the images produced from these specimens, the excitement Levon saw in response immediately told him that he needed to make an exhibition, so he got them printed up big.  REAL big!

levon_printing

Levon doesn’t see the exhibition as being an end to this project, but merely the beginning.

LEVON_BISS_Tiger-Beetle

The exhibition is being held at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and runs from May 27th until October 30th, 2016.

LEVON_BISS_Tortoise-Beetle

You can find out more about Levon and see the rest of his work on his website and see very up close and personal zoomable images of the bugs on the Microsculpture website.  Images used with permission.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “How a personal project became an exhibition of the most beautifully photographed and detailed bugs you ever saw”

  1. Thapa Avatar
    Thapa

    When n where is the exibition going to be??