The diverse taxonomic order of spiders is brimming with strange biological phenomena: black widows have been known to cannibalize their mates, tarantulas are covered in barbed urticating hairs that they fling in defense similar to porcupines, and others have evolved to mimic the shape and pheromones of an ant to avoid predators.
On a recent trip to a wooded area in Santa Claus, Indiana, photographer Kevin Wiener uncovered one of the latter species, the tutelina similis, and snapped a few macro shots of the 6-millimeter creature. Each of the striking photos catches the arthropod’s iridescent exoskeleton in a manner that highlights its rainbow luster and reveals its ant-like appearance. Similar gleaming color schemes are widespread in the world of insects, including on the microscopic scales that cover butterflies.
The radiant jumping spider is part of Wiener’s vast archive of insect images, which he shares on Instagram and in his online group called All Bugs Go to Kevin. He launched the resource in the spring of 2019 as a way to offer insight into the micro-world of insects, and it now boasts more than 42,000 members, including scientists, macro photographers, and other arthropod enthusiasts.
Currently based in Evansville, Indiana, Wiener fuses his background in both wedding photography and pest management into a practice that highlights striking and bizarre organisms. “I try to photograph my subjects in a way that gives the appearance of a personality which makes them appear less scary and helps those with fears to see them differently. I want to showcase the beauty of arthropods and show people the things they don’t see with the naked eye,” he tells Colossal. “Basically, if it’s little and moving, it’s probably gonna have a photoshoot.”
In addition to uncovering the diverse world of insects, Wiener also teaches an Indiana Master Naturalist course and has presented to the Entomological Society of America as part of a symposium. You can follow his work that falls at the intersection of science and photography on Instagram and Twitter.
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Within the vast collections of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a trove of dried specimens that once were juicy seeds and fruits primed for reproduction. Now gnarled, fractured, and blanketed in tiny, dehydrated bristles, the individual pods have been preserved as part of the carpological archive at the Scottish institution, a resource photographer Levon Biss (previously) spent hours sifting through in preparation for a stunning new series of macro images.
Spanning from the rampant clusters of the Ko Phuang to endangered rarities like the Coco de Mer, the photographs reveal the inner details otherwise enclosed within the specimens’ shells. Texture and subtle color differences are the basis for most of the shots, which frame a cracked or sliced pod in a manner that centers on their unique components.
The botanic garden’s collection is global in scope and boasts about 100 individual pieces per species, meaning Biss sorted through hundreds of thousands to choose the final 117 that have culminated in his new book The Hidden Beauty of Seeds & Fruits. Initially culled based on aesthetics, the resulting selection encompasses all processes of seed dispersal, along with information about morphology, location, and history. “I tried to make sure all methods were included in the overall edit so that the work becomes an educational tool, not just pretty pictures,” Biss tells Colossal, further explaining the research process:
Each specimen is contained within a small box, and sometimes, you would find a handwritten note on a scrap of paper where the botanist provided a visual description of the surroundings where the specimen was found. Some of these specimens are over 100 years old, and reading these very personal notes made me wonder what the botanist had to go through to find that specimen. What were their traveling conditions like? What did they have to endure to bring the specimen back to Edinburgh? Reading these notes gave me a connection with the botanist and was certainly one of my personal highlights of the project.
On view in the same space as the original specimens, Biss’s photos are up at the Royal Botanic Gardens through October 31. The Hidden Beauty of Seeds & Fruits, which is published by Abrams, is available now on Bookshop, and you can find prints from the series on the photographer’s site. Keep up with his biological snapshots, which include a striking collection of iridescent beetles, on Instagram.
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A Colorful Macro Photo of Beach Sand Reveals Infinitesimal Fragments of Coral, Quartz, Shells, and Plastic
A stunning macro image by Ole Bielfeldt lays out the individual elements that comprise a dusting of sand from a Mallorca beach, revealing a piece of microplastic embedded within the colorful composition. “Although to the naked eye this looks like very clean natural sand, pieces of microplastic, as seen in the last image, can be found when viewed under the microscope,” says the Cologne-based photographer, who works as Macrofying. The prevalence of the tiny pollutants is especially high on Mediterranean coasts, meaning seemingly pristine beaches comprised of quartz, seashells, and coral debris are often riddled with the manufactured material.
Bielfeldt is known for zooming in on the otherwise unseen details of common goods and natural substances, which he shares in an extensive archive on Instagram and YouTube. “My work has definitely shaped my view on everyday objects. After exploring so many different samples, you get a new feeling for your environment and start to understand how some things work. There’s a complete and amazing little universe hidden right before our eyes,” he says. (via Twisted Sifter)
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When an herbivorous insect like an aphid or mite needs a place to feed and reproduce, it sometimes seizes a tiny section of a plant where it establishes an abnormal growth or gall. These tissue pockets, which are spurred by a reaction in the host, provide shelter and nutrition for the creature, and although some can be unsightly blemishes, others, like these brightly colored growths of cynipid wasps, are bizarrely beautiful additions to the otherwise green leaves. Photographed by Timothy Boomer, the macro images capture the imperceptible details of the galls, which appear like fairytale-style mushroom houses, prickly sea urchins, and fuzzy, striped domes. See more of the whimsical growths, which generally only cause cosmetic damage to the host plant, on Instagram and Boomer’s site, where you can also purchase prints.
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Alison Pollack’s preferred subjects are the tiny, inconspicuous organisms that are difficult to spot without a trained eye and microscope. The California-based photographer documents the minuscule fungi that spring from leaves and bits of bark with an extreme macro lens, exposing the rarely visible iridescent speckles, pockmarks, and feathered tissues that cover their fruiting bodies. “My goal is to reveal to people tiny mushrooms and slime molds that they might otherwise never see, or may never even have heard of,” she tells Colossal. “And also to reveal the beautiful intricate detail in these organisms.”
Although her earlier images captured the fleshy fungi in spectacular detail, Pollack has spent the last two years getting even closer to her subjects—which are often less than a millimeter tall—by using a microscope lens that magnifies her findings up to 20 times their actual size. The resulting images document even the smallest features, like individual spores, the veiny web structure encasing them, and the distinct texture and color of each organism.
Find Pollack on Instagram and Facebook to see what she spots next and to order prints of her photos. You also might enjoy this documentary about the vast underground network of mycelium that’s tied to all life on Earth.
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“Evolution,” directed by French video artist Thomas Blanchard (previously), offers an otherwise undetectable look at the minute movements of natural life. The macro-view project shows the first signs of flowers blossoming, in addition to glimpses of dozens of insect legs scurrying across a crumbling surface and of other bugs bating and catching their prey. Utilizing an array of deeply saturated light sources, Blanchard illuminates vibrant florals as they spread open and insects with glossy bodies, adding artistic nuance to an accurate depiction of nature’s cycles.
Aedan, who produced the time-lapsed video, calls it “an exercise in patience and observation that the master of macro, here (the) director, masters to perfection… The result is a striking spectacle where you can observe life with a new eye.” It was filmed in 8K with a RED Helium camera, using both a Canon 100 millimeter L macro lens and MPE 60 millimeter macro lens, and was edited in 4K. Keep up with Blanchard’s surreal transformations on Vimeo and Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Art
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