insects

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Art Illustration

Gemstones, Delicate Filigree, and Mechanical Gears Encase Steeven Salvat's Insect Specimens

November 18, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Steeven Salvat, shared with permission

Steeven Salvat (previously) evokes the glass-covered entomological studies of rare butterflies, beetles, and moths with an additional layer of protection. The French artist armors the singular insects with precious gemstones, silver and gold filigree, and rotational gears. Even elements of luxury watches, like Breguet’s Reine de Naple and an intricate dial from Vacheron Constantin, cloak the critters’ outer shells.

In a note to Colossal, Salvat writes that the growing collection of drawings is an “allegory for the preciosity of biological systems. A way to drive attention to our smallest neighbors on this planet—we need to preserve them because they are worth much more than all the gold and jewels I dressed them with.” Each intricate drawing is rendered with China black ink and watercolor and takes at least 50 hours to complete.

Pick up a limited-edition giclée print of an encrusted creature in Salvat’s shop, and follow his latest projects merging nature, history, and science on Behance and Instagram.

 

 

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A post shared by Steeven Salvat (@steevensalvat)

 

 



Illustration

Painted on Vintage Postcards, Flora and Fauna Celebrate Farming Traditions and Wildlife of the Midwest

November 4, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Diana Sudyka, shared with permission

Twenty-seven years ago while studying at the University of Illinois, illustrator Diana Sudyka (previously) retrieved a bundle of postcards from a dumpster. The ephemeral correspondence revealed a relationship between farmers and workers from the Harvard area and a man named John Dwyer, either their accountant or investor who lived throughout Chicago, Cicero, and Berwyn. Dated from 1939 to 1942, the short letters generally contained information about livestock sales and farm expenses.

Now based in the Chicago area, Sudyka repurposes the envelopes as canvases for her watercolor and gouache paintings of flora and fauna native to the Midwest. “I have a strong attachment to the envelopes for various reasons, not least of which is that I was born and raised in Illinois, and spent a good deal of time in rural areas of the state,” she shares with Colossal. The penmanship, patina, and markings on the paper all inform her decisions to reflect a particular shrub or beetle duo amongst the remaining postmark and stamp. “I am drawn to the beauty of the handwriting on the envelopes, and the variation in the inks used,” she says, also noting her affinity for the assembled artworks of late artist Joseph Cornell.

Through delicate depictions of squirrels and long-legged herons, the illustrator connects her own experience enjoying the region’s bucolic settings with the decades-old content of the letters. “I often think about the wildlife that I saw as a child in those rural areas, unaware at the time of how much agriculture had already altered the land. And now as an adult, so much of both wildlife and those family farms are gone. The envelope paintings are my homage to both,” she says.

Prints of Sudyka’s postcard illustrations, which you can follow on Instagram, are available on her site.

 

Flying squirrel

Heron

Grey tree frog

Barn owl

Left: Milkweed. Right: Pawpaw tree

Blue salamander

Underwing moth

 

 



Photography

Iridescent Glass Worms, Fruiting Slime Molds, and a Glowing Eel Larvae Top Close-Up Photography Contest

October 7, 2020

Grace Ebert

Image © Andrei Savitsky, cupoty.com. Winner: Micro. “Glass worms can vary in length from about half an inch to two inches. On the right side of this image you can see the large tracheal bubbles that serve as hydrostatic organs (or swim bladders). These bubbles allow the larva to keep its horizontal position in the water column, while also helping to regulate the depth of its immersion. The bubbles are covered with dark pigment cells that can resize – if the cells expand due to absorption of light, the tracheal bubbles heat up and increase in volume, reducing the weight of the larva and causing it to float up. To create the picture here I made a panorama of eight frames, each of which was focus stacked. To make the image as detailed (and aesthetically pleasing) as I possible I used darkfield and polarisation techniques.” All images shared with permission

Captured around the globe, the winning shots in the 2020 Close-Up Photographer Of The Year glimpse some of nature’s most fascinating details, from the organs inside a shimmering glass worm to slime molds bursting with fruit. Dr. Galice Hoarau, an evolutionary biologist living in Bodø, Norway, took the top prize for his image (shown below) of a serpentine eel larva spotted during a blackwater dive.

In its second year, the annual contest garnered more than 6,500 entries from 52 countries. Photojournalists Tracy and Dan Calder, a wife and husband duo based in the United Kingdom, launched the competition in 2018 to “encourage photographers to slow down, enjoy their craft, and make long-lasting connections with the world around them.” Explore some of Colossal’s favorite close-up, micro, and macro shots below, and dive into the top 100 images on CUPOTY’s site. (via Design You Trust)

 

Image © Galice Hoarau, cupoty.com. Animals and Overall Winner of Close-up Photographer of the Year. “I spotted this eel larva off the island of Lembeh (Indonesia) during a blackwater dive. Blackwater diving is essentially diving at night in the open ocean, usually over deep or very deep water. Divers are surrounded by darkness, with only a lit downline as a visual reference. Peering through the darkness with your torch can be quite stressful the first time you do it, but it gets fascinating quickly. What makes blackwater diving so magical is the abundance of rarely seen planktonic creatures you spot as they take part in one of the largest daily migrations of any animal on Earth. After sunset, small pelagic animals (like this larva) rise close to the surface to feed where the sunlight has allowed planktonic algae to grow. At sunrise, they dive into the depths and stay down there during the day to escape predators.”

 

Image © Barry Webb, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Plants & Fungi. “This image is a stack of 34 focus bracketed images. It was taken in February 2020 in a mixed woodland in Buckinghamshire, UK. It shows a line of 2.5mm high, fruiting bodies of the slime mold Metatrichia floriformis growing on a decaying beech trunk. I always use a x10 loupe with built-in LEDs to examine slime molds and to help me pick out the optimal composition. Initially, I liked this group because it showed different stages in their development. But when I looked through the magnifier, I noticed that the fruiting bodies resembled people standing in a line – the holes in the stems looked like little legs!”

 

Image © Juan Jesús González Ahumada, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Insects. “When night falls, water scorpions rise to the surface of the pond and begin to interact with fellow water-dwelling creatures. While they might have a sinister appearance, these insects belong to the genus of bed bugs and aren’t actually dangerous. The caudal tube that helps them to breathe (and resembles a tail) is harmless. The pincers, however, help them to grab their prey, which they then kill with their beak. To show their wonderful outlines, and reduce them to silhouettes, I placed two flashlights under two water scorpions in the pond.”

 

Image © Chien Lee, cupoty.com. 3rd Place: Insects. “Bioluminescence is abundant in the Bornean rainforest at night, a feature that becomes evident as soon as you turn off your headlamp, but few organisms emit a light as strong as Lamprigera beetles. Close relatives of fireflies, Lamprigera differ in that the females are wingless and produce a bright and steady greenish light from the tip of their abdomen. During a night walk in the mountains of southern Sarawak, I found this large specimen crawling through low vegetation, presumably on the hunt for snails, their preferred prey. To capture the bright continuous trail of light from its abdomen, I used a long exposure as it made its way along a stick, coupled with a single rear-sync flash.”

 

Image © Csaba Daroczi, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Animals. “I was preparing to take pictures of bogbean (Menyanthes) at the Turjanos nature conservation area near Kisőrös, Hungary, when I glimpsed this composition in the marshland. I carefully set up my tripod, and prayed for the spider not to move. It allowed me a few pictures before disappearing into the foliage.”

 

Image © Giacomo Redaelli, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Young Close-up Photographer of the Year. “I had already photographed great crested tits close to home, but this time I wanted a picture of one against a blurred white background to make the red-eye of the bird stand out. To create the picture I had in my mind’s eye I had to travel four hours to a wood in Switzerland. It was very cold and the snow-covered almost everything. When I arrived, I saw many birds in the wood, but no crested tits. I walked for almost an hour in this beautiful landscape before I heard a familiar call. I stopped, took my camera out of the bag and waited, without moving. I couldn’t tell where the call was coming from. After a while, a crested tit flew on to a branch right in front of me. I moved as slowly as possible, trying not to scare it away, and brought my camera up to my face. I was so happy to see the bird in the viewfinder. I focused on the eye and got a few nice shots.”

 

Image © Heather Angel, cupoty.com. 3rd Place: Micro. “This time-lapse shows how green hydras (Hydra viridissima), although sessile (fixed in one place), can move around. A hydra moves by looping over and over, attaching the tentacles, then detaching the disc before reattaching it. They can also move by floating upside down. This particular hydra was attached to a petri dish raised up from a black background so it could be lit from below using darkfield illumination (DFI) and a microscope. The paler margins of the hydra’s body are a result of DFI. The green color is caused by symbiotic algae that live inside the hydra. In return, the algae provide nutrients to the hydra via photosynthesis. Hydras feed on small crustaceans, including water fleas.”

 

Image © Mathieu Foulquié, cupoty.com. 3rd Place Animals. “This common toad (Bufo bufo) took a liking to me, probably because I looked like a frogman myself. He didn’t stop following me during my two-hour dive in the Buèges karst spring (Hérault, Occitanie, France), so he became the perfect model.”

 

Image © Mike Curry, cupoty.com. Winner: Insects. “I was visiting Goole, the town where I was born in East Yorkshire, in 2018 as my dad was very ill in hospital. To take my mind off things I went for a walk with my wife Justine. There had been no time to pack really so all I had with me was my iPhone XS. We were walking towards the docks when I saw some beautiful peeling paint on an abandoned building site. I went over to photograph it when Justine asked if I had noticed the butterfly too. I hadn’t as I was miles away, but I had already captured this image serendipitously. It felt a surreal moment as my dad particularly liked butterflies and always commented that they represented relatives who had passed away, making it even more poignant. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after, so this is a special photograph for me.”

 

Image © Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz, cupoty.com. Winner: Young Close-up Photographer of the Year. “I regularly visit a meadow near my hometown of Csongrád-Bokros, Hungary, observing the site in all seasons. The meadow is grazed by Hungarian grey cattle, which keeps the place in relatively good condition. One frosty winter’s morning I headed out to take some extreme macro shots at the surface of some frozen water that had pooled in the tracks left by a tractor. Crouching down, I spotted some yellow globular springtails (Sminthurus maculatus) which feed in the sunrays reflected from the ice. I used LED torches to illuminate one of them, and came away with a picture that celebrates this tiny creature.”

 

 



Illustration

Meticulous Illustrations Document the Flora and Fauna Observed throughout the Devon Countryside

September 28, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Jo Brown, shared with permission

Behind Jo Brown’s home in Devon is a rich countryside complete with a wooded area and thick vegetation. For years, the United Kingdom-based illustrator documented the wildlife and plant species she encountered in her Nature Journal, a black Moleskine that now has been reproduced exactly in a forthcoming book, Secrets of a Devon Wood.

Each page of Brown’s notebook contains a pen and colored pencil drawing that begins at the pages’ edges, appearing to grow from the corner or across the paper. Sometimes captured through close-ups that mimic scientific illustrations, the delicate renderings depict the detail of a buff-tailed bumblebee’s fuzzy torso and the red tendrils of a round-leaved sundew. Brown notes the common and Latin names for each species and common characteristics, in addition to where and when she spotted it.

To keep up with the illustrator’s journeys into the countryside, follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and pick up a print from Society6. (via My Modern Met)

 

 

 



Photography Science

Watch an Unusual Ensemble of Insects Take Flight in Extreme Slow Motion

August 21, 2020

Grace Ebert

In what’s believed to be the first footage of its kind, a stunningly slow-motion video by Dr. Adrian Smith captures a rare group of insects just as they lift off the ground. The NC State assistant professor utilized a black light to attract unusual insects, like a plume moth, eastern firefly, and a rosy maple moth that, as Smith notes, resembles “a flying muppet.” He then recorded the creatures’ flight maneuvers at 3,200 fps to capture their unique wing movements, which he explains during each step. The macro lens also shows the minute details of their limbs and furry bodies, offering a rare glimpse at the insects up-close.

Smith has filmed a range of slow-motion footage that he shares on YouTube, including ants injecting venom and various hoppers launching off the ground. (via PetaPixel)

 

 

 



Art Science

Science-Inspired Ink by Michele Volpi Blurs the Line Between Tattoo and Textbook

July 29, 2020

Vanessa Ruiz

All images © Michele Volpi, shared with permission

One might learn something from staring at the tattoos of Italian artist Michele Volpi (previously). The composition, detailed dot work, and precise lines of his tattoos transcend both ink-infused skin and science textbooks. The Bologna-based tattoo artist relishes in scientific books—from Frank Netter’s painterly medical illustrations to the exquisitely rendered biological specimens and marine life of Ernst Haeckel. He often visits bookshops during his travels to discover and acquire these new sources of inspiration.

Volpi’s customers seek him out to tattoo an array of botany, astronomy, physiology, and chemistry-based compositions. Sometimes customers let him choose the branch of science, in which case he renders his favorite subject—anatomy. Even then, Volpi combines subject matter like in his tattoo comparing the shape of a human pelvis to that of a butterfly or another that features a human skull being stretched absurdly through a wormhole.

The artist tells Colossal that his “dream is to make a scientific book with all of my conceptual scientific illustrations that I love.” View Volpi’s body of work and booking information on Instagram. For those not ready for the permanence of a tattoo, there are prints of his pen-and-ink, anatomical illustrations available in his shop.

 

 

 

 

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