Monday, 5 March 2012

Butterfly Scales

Butterflies have been known around the world for their iridescence. This trait has been used in technologies such as Mirasol displays to increase efficiency within battery power. I have explained this before within a previous post, but these photographs explain the phenomenon in a far more visually engaging way. 

These are the scales of Regina de bambiri at a 10x magnification through a microscope. This species does not have the iridescence of a Morpho butterfly, but this photograph shows the scaled structure that makes up the colour of the butterfly.

Here is a 20x magnification of the scales, showing the actual shape of these overlapping structures.

Here, another species of butterfly is seen with a similar structure, this time lit from the surface instead. This is designed to be a more artistic shot, showing the almost bone/feather support helping hold the wing together. This was shot on a 10x magnification.

Again, this shows another non-iridescent species (Cethosia myrina sandora). This was shot on a 10x magnification.

This is where the Morpho butterfly comes into play. Lighting the scales from underneath, you can see the shape of the scales that are similar to the top photographs of Regina de bambiri, but this time (with a little more light being shone onto the top of the subject) you can see the colour created by the nanostructure of the scales. Without this top lighting, the blue scale effect does not appear. 

Whilst looking at the Morpho under a microscope, I couldn't resist taking a few shots of the compound eye of these magnificent creatures. 38 to be exact. After stacking these shots, here is the final outcome.

Again here is another example of the eye of a butterfly, this time it was the A. adamsi butterfly. This shot was intended to be more artistic and abstract to the rest. All of these images were shot through a Zeiss microscope at university using a mounted D300 body.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Following with the macro trend, I've started using all manner of insects to practise lighting with. Yesterday I shot a wasp found in the back of a friends car which was gladly in tact. Here are the results, but I am hoping to build a setup which will be more effective in the next week or so.

The first shot was photographed using a vivid setting on JPEG format, reducing the amount of strain put onto my computer when stacking them. Unfortunately it's made the eyes very high in contrast, shadowing some of the detail within the eye.

Thursday, 16 February 2012


Yesterday I was in the studio shooting some butterflies, and please do excuse the pun title. In this post I'll explain the shoot, species and reason behind scientists finding these species so interesting. 

I took these photographs of the butterflies eyes because I need to shoot a moths eye soon for another technology. I see this as a practise run, but was happy with the results. The top photograph is comprised of 17 photos, the middle has over 30 and the bottom is made up of 11. The scales shot in the middle is of the Morpho, but is only a test shot. The real photograph will be taken soon under a microscope, as this just looks like a messy blur at the moment, and it's hard to distinguish any real detail. 

Photonic crystals are precise arrangements of geometrical patterns at microscopic scales. 
On butterfly wings, these patterns might be bumps, holes, ridges, hexagonal arrays or other shapes, often in 3-D arrangements. The shapes are spaced very close to the wavelengths of light in ways that intensify the reflected light of certain colors and absorb others. You’ve seen this effect in the colors in oil on water -- depending on the angle, some colors become vivid -- except in the case of butterflies, the effect is controlled by the genetic code for purposes such as species recognition, mating display, warnings to predators, and camouflage. The control is so effective that the colors can be seen from a wide range of angles, even when the butterfly is flapping its wings in flight. The iridescent blue of the Morpho butterfly (seen here to the left) uses this technique, while and the oranges and yellows of the Monarch are produced by pigments.

In other words, the shape and arrangement of these scales mess around with light so much that in theory, you could create different spectrums of colour by changing these shapes and arrangements. I photographed these two butterflies, the top being a Morpho (which I bought online) and the latter being an Ornithoptera Croesus (commonly known as Wallace's Golden Birdwing) which I found in one of the studios at university. 

These can then be utilised within technology by creating brighter clothing, sensors that change colour with shape, more visible safety equipment and maybe one day even brighter teeth. A company called Mirasol have used this concept within flat screens to create a reflective membrane which increases battery life by 40%. 

At the most basic level, a mirasol display is an optically resonant cavity. The device consists of a self-supporting deformable reflective membrane and a thin-film stack (each of which acts as one mirror of an optically resonant cavity), both residing on a transparent substrate.

When ambient light hits the structure, it is reflected both off the top of the thin-film stack and off the reflective membrane. Depending on the height of the optical cavity, light of certain wavelengths reflecting off the membrane will be slightly out of phase with the light reflecting off the thin-film structure. Based on the phase difference, some wavelengths will constructively interfere, while others will destructively interfere. 

The human eye will perceive a color as certain wavelengths will be amplified with respect to others. The image on a mirasol display can switch between color and black by changing the membrane state. This is done by applying a voltage to the thin-film stack, which is electrically conducting and is protected by an insulating layer. When a voltage is applied, electrostatic forces cause the membrane to collapse. 

Saturday, 31 December 2011


Keeping with the spiders, I heard from an old school friend who was always keen on arachnids and reptiles. Ben was happy to let me come and photograph some of his pets, including a variety of tarantulas and three snakes. Two of these were boa constrictors and the last a californian king snake.

The size of these spiders varied from around a centimetre in leg-span to a couple of inches. I wanted to continue photographing arachnids to show a variation within my project. These spiders were a little more difficult to photograph as they moved around a lot more, and made it much harder to focus stack them.

Kudos to Ben, I'll be returning through the holidays and continuing with his spiders and snakes.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Spiders take 2

Here's the next shot in the series, I've changed the angle slightly, along with the depth of field and background colours. I like this photograph a lot more than the original shot but think there's still room for improvement.

This photograph consists of 25 shots.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


Spiders have a fantastic range of abilities that can be used for our own gain, but their most precious property is undoubtedly their silk. It is 10 times stronger than steel and can stretch up to 40% of it's original length. Nevertheless, this specimen still scared the hell out of me.

A company called Nexia Biotechnologies has created a material called Biosteel. BioSteel is a trademark name for a high-strength based fiber material made of the recombinant spider silk-like protein extracted from the milk of transgenic goats, made by Nexia Biotechnologies. The company has created lines of goats that produce recombinant versions of either the MaSpl or MaSpll dragline silk proteins in their milk. When the female goats lactate, the milk, containing the recombinant silk, is harvested and subjected to chromatographic techniques to purify the recombinant silk proteins.

Unfortunately since then Nexia has been bought out and sold a number of goats to the U.S Defence Department. The whereabouts and future of these goats remains unknown, but the applications in which the silk could be used is extensive. If you could create a textile, you could weave very lightweight bulletproof vests, cables for bridges, and even anti-ballistic missile systems.

Using a reverse mounted lens, 3 extension tubes and a home made studio I was able to take this photograph. It's not a final piece in any way, shape or form. This is a starting block for a more dramatic photo, as I will change the depth of field via how many photographs I choose to stack, lighting positions and background. I will also take various photos of the spider from different angles, showing the anatomy of it, including it's spinnerets. These may be tricky though, and may require a microscope.

This photograph is comprised of 14 shots.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Burdock seeds and goose grass

This post is related to Velcro. The idea was originally thought up by George de Mestral after he returned from a hunting trip in 1941 and noticed how Burdock seeds stuck to his clothes. Replicating this idea with small hooks and a surface mimicking fur, he created Velcro, which was patented in 1955. 

The first three photographs are of goose grass under a microscope. I played around with various different light temperatures, but bear in mind that these are about 5mm in diameter. The second shot was made by cutting through sections of the goose grass, and I did this in order to demonstrate singular hooks. All of these first three photographs were focus stacked, the third one to show the overall structure of these tiny seeds. Moving on with this shoot, I think to improve the shot I'll add a tape measure or ruler next to the subject. The reason these photographs aren't pin sharp is because the camera mount for the microscope isn't amazing, but I have been told that there are better ones in uni, so I'll give those a go too.

The last two photographs show Burdock seeds. These are the hooks that inspired George de Mestral to invent something you've probably had on your shoes at some point in your life, or have fastened something on with. The first shot shows it's ability to hook onto fur or clothing, and the second simply showing the hooks shape. 

The next thing I want to do with this is to show Burdock seeds clinging to Velcro itself.