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Microsculptures at The Natural History Museum

September 13, 2016

Part of the Blink Image team took a couple of hours away from the office yesterday to visit a new exhibition at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

 

The exhibition was comprised of some astounding macro photography of insects from within the museum's own collection. The photographer, Levon Biss, has spent countless man hours painstakingly shooting many hundreds of photographs of each insect before re-building them into one complete image of immense magnification.

Now, one of the problems with any sort of macro-photography, is that you have an extremely limited depth of field. The 'sharp zone' is razor thin. Biss used a rail mounted rig that allowed him to take many, many (many!) photographs of each portion of the insect at varying distances, so he had a sharp capture at each depth. He then used various software tools - and a huge amount of skill - to reconstruct a completely sharp photograph. Each image took around 3 weeks to create.

 

Biss comes from a background of portrait photography. Lighting is a crucial element of photography (and CGI), particularly when shooting portraits. He cleverly transferred these same skills to lighting the insects. The difference in this case, however, was that each part of the insect (the eyes, the wings etc) behaved differently to the lighting. To bring out the best of all the parts, Biss used different techniques for each part to help bring out the detail of the insect.

 

The printouts are immense. It is an amazing experience to stand so close to the works of art and wonder how/why these insects have evolved the way they have.

 

There is certainly a great deal that our artists can learn from this exhibition and apply to architectural visualisation: the importance of detail; the ways that we can harness lighting to bring out the characteristics of architecture; the clarity of presentation and composition.

 

It is a beautiful exhibition and well worth a visit if you get the opportunity.

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