Dazzling hidden beauty of insects revealed in Norfolk exhibition

Amazingly detailed image of a Orchid Cuckoo Bee, part of a ground breaking project by British photog

Amazingly detailed image of a Orchid Cuckoo Bee, part of a ground breaking project by British photographer Levon Biss - Credit: Archant

British photographer Levon Biss' series of beautifully-lit, high magnification portraits captures the microscopic form of insects in striking high-resolution detail.

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A unique opportunity to study in minute detail on massive images the dizzying variety of the hidden world of insects is on offer a new exhibition.

As part of a ground breaking project by British photographer and Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society Levon Biss that presents insect specimens from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History like never before, images are going on display at Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Cley Marshes gallery.

This series of beautifully-lit, high magnification portraits reveal an unexpected and often breathtaking beauty and make visible the many intricate adaptations to the form of insects – what entomologists call their microsculpture. Created through a collaboration between Levon and the museum, this series of beautifully-lit, high magnification portraits captures the microscopic form of insects in striking high-resolution detail.

Displayed as large scale photographic prints up to three metres high, they provide a unique opportunity to study the amazing variety of this hidden world.


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Formed at scales too tiny to perceive and with astonishing complexity, the true structure and beauty of insects remains mostly hidden. Their intricate shapes, colours and microsculpture include endless variety, but it takes the power of an optical microscope or camera lens to experience insects at their own scale.

Jewel Longhorned Beetle photographed by Levon Biss as part of his Microsculpture project with the Ox

Jewel Longhorned Beetle photographed by Levon Biss as part of his Microsculpture project with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History - Credit: Archant

Levon Biss said: 'The natural world is an endlessly inspiring and hugely rewarding subject to photograph. The intricate beauty of these tiny creatures never ceases to amaze me and this drives me forward to capture images that showcase their hidden splendour in all its glory.'

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Explaining the photography process, he adds: 'Each image 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 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 specific part area of the body. I continue this process until I have covered the whole surface area of the insect.'

The exhibition previews on March 31 with a special launch evening and talk with thr artist where he will reveal more about how the images are created with his unique technique.

• Microsculpture, Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre, NWT Cley & Salthouse Marshes Reserve, April 1-May 2, 10am-5pm, admission free, 01263 740008, www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

• Find out more at www.microsculpture.net

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