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Microsculpture | Levon Biss’ Exquisite & Inspiring 3 Meter Insect Photography

By Kishore Sawh on October 2nd 2016

It is, perhaps, surprising that with the overflowing cornucopia of imagery that comes at us in every form on every device that we don’t come across more work that simply blows us into the middle of next week. There’s a lot of incredible work, admirable work to aspire to be able to create, but then there’s work that so unusual both in subject, method, and how spectacularly they are executed that they bring back some of the awe many of us who are saturated with images all day, love to see. These recent works by British photographer, Levon Biss, are some such.

Biss is a seasoned and renowned portrait and sports photographer who has published a much-loved book on soccer called ‘One Love’ and whose images have graced covers of the likes of Time magazine. While his work requires a fair amount of travel, Biss was looking for something he could do at home at any time he liked, and being so versed in technical photography, went the path of Microsculpture insect photography. Essentially, Microsculpture is a sort of inverted visual experience where a 10mm insect is shown as a 3 meter print.



Of course printing a subject so small at that scale requires a ridiculous level of resolution and technical execution, and for that Biss used a combination of Nikon camera and lens, Mcgyvered together with microscope lenses and then a computer motorized platform on which to mount the camera; subjects he got on loan from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History which is home to one of the largest insect collections in the UK.

To say the process is arduous is an understatement, because it’s nothing if not intensely meticulous from the point of set-up, subject procurement, the act of photographing, retouching, and then finally printing. Speaking of, as he photographs with microscope lenses which have an extremely shallow DOF, numerous images of each subject had to be taken to reach the final composite – between 8 to 10 thousand shots per final photo. That amounts to about 2-3 weeks work per final image.



And the final product? 3 meter long prints that are absolutely exquisite. So good in fact, the museum is currently hosting an exhibition of the works until October 30th, allowing the public to see parts of the museum collection they’d never otherwise be fortunate enough to see, and for those that have seen it to experience this subjects in a way they never have before. But if you can’t make it, don’t despair too much, as Biss has a website where you can see his images in brilliant, zoomable form. You can check it out here, more about Biss here, and of course check out the video below to see the process.

[REWIND: How To Easily Crop & Resize To Exact Dimensions In Photoshop Using One Tool]


Microsculpture from Levon Biss on Vimeo.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Peter McWade

    You need to go check out the web site and check out the explore section of his web site. It will blow you away.

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  2. Peter McWade

    Absolutely stunning detail.

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  3. Ralph Hightower

    Interesting! I’ve seen this video from elsewhere. I have a Canon MacroPhoto 20mm f3.5 lens that offers 4 to 10 times magnification when used with Canon’s Auto Bellows.

    However, I cannot chimp the photos that I take with this lens because it and the bellows were designed for Canon’s FD mount cameras (i.e. film).

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