Meet the Man Who Pictures the World's Microcosms

Interesting Engineering

Igor Siwanowicz sees things on a small scale - a very small scale.

The biochemist and neurobiologist uses high-tech confocal laser-scanning microscopes to take macro pictures of microcosms. Simply put, Siwanowicz uses technology to show what can't be revealed to the naked eye.

His favorite subject matter? Bugs.

"Insects have those totally alien, Gigeresque forms that I find somehow fascinating."

igor-siwanowicz-micro13Fractalized legs of artemia, a species of brine shrimp.
[Image source: Igor Siwanowicz]

The Polish-born scientists currently lives in Ashburn, Virginia. His passions led him not to microcosms, but to the technology to capture them first. Once he realized the power of the microscopes, he then questioned what all he could uncover with them.

igor-siwanowicz-micro1Acilius diving beetle male front tarsus 100x
[Image source: Igor Siwanowicz]

"I was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1976, to a pair of biologists – I suppose it was the exposure to all the biology textbooks that shaped my interests early in life."

igor-siwanowicz-micro9[Image source: Igor Siwanowicz]

He's managed to capture pretty marvelous shapes in his photo series. While most humans avoid getting close to bugs at all costs, Siwanowicz exposes their intricacies. His microscope can take multiple pictures with varying focal points. He then reconstructs those photos into one high-resolution image.

ImageJ=1.45s channels=3 mode=composite unit=um spacing=2.75 loop=false min=15.0 max=4095.0[Image source: Igor Siwanowicz]

Fluorescent dyes add color to his pictures. The dyes react differently to individual material structures. The dyes themselves can form different patterns. Differences in protein fibers can also add to variations of hues.

igor-siwanowicz-micro4[Image source: Igor Siwanowicz]

"I grew up surrounded by illustrated biology/zoology textbooks, and that was my very first contact with nature photography. But it wasn’t until around spring 2003 when I bought my very first digital SLR camera, Canon 10D, along with a macro lens and a bunch of accessories that I found myself on the supply side of photography."

igor-siwanowicz-micro3[Image source: Igor Siwanowicz]

Siwanowicz nicknamed himself as Blepharopsis, the Greek for "praying mantis." He explains his unique persona in his own words:

igor-siwanowicz-micro6[Image source: Igor Siwanowicz]

"Blepharopsis is as mad as a ferret, arrogant scientist roaming the Chernobyl ground zero area with a portable electron microscope in search of deformed chromosomal mutant disasters."

igor-siwanowicz-micro7[Image source: Igor Siwanowicz]


For Siwanowicz, every photo serves as a journey into a world unknown. He says that he could never know what he will see under his microscope as a result. For interested readers, he shares the more technical details of each picture on his website as well.

To see more, visit his website here. Follow him on Facebook as well.

Via: Igor Siwanowicz, Wired, Pxleyes

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