clock menu more-arrow no yes
Levon Biss

This photographer stitched together 8,000 tiny photos to reveal the splendor of insects

Finally, there's a photographer up to the task of capturing the splendid-necked dung beetle in all of its opulence.

British photographer Levon Biss (best known for his portraits and sports photography) has teamed up with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to produce these stunning high-resolution images of insects from the museum's collection. It's a rare opportunity to see insects' every hair, every nook and nodule, in perfect clarity, color, and contrast.

But making these images is no small feat: Each one is actually a composite of more than 8,000 photos shot with a microscopic lens.

Microscopic lenses have a tiny depth of field, which means they can only bring one tiny spot into focus at a time. It's painstaking work to get every aspect of the insect in perfect focus this way.

"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," Biss writes of his process. "To give you an idea of how far that is, the average human hair is around 75 microns wide."

From start to finish, each image requires a few weeks of shooting, retouching, and digital reassembly.

The images are currently on display at the Oxford Museum in an exhibit called "Microsculpture." The insects — 22 in total — were pulled from the museum's entomology collection, and were selected for their particularly rich colors and well-preserved structures.

Some prints at the museum stretch 10 feet across to show off every detail of the insects. If you can't make it to Oxford, however, you can get a taste of the exhibit by scrolling down or checking out the photos on the "Microsculpture" website, where you can zoom in on the tiniest details.

Levon Biss

The splendid-necked dung beetle.

Levon Biss

The branch-backed treehopper.

Levon Biss

The ground beetle.

Levon Biss

The flying saucer trench beetle.

Levon Biss

The marion flightless moth.

Levon Biss

The orchid cuckoo bee.

Levon Biss

The tiger beetle.

Future Perfect

Why you’re not getting a delta-specific booster yet

Science & Health

Healing, a saga

Explainers

We can’t just run away from wildfires

View all stories in Science & Health