07 August 2010

Steve Gschmeissner’s Incredible Microscope Photos of Insects

Scientific photographer Steve Gschmeissner, 61, from Bedford, uses a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to magnify his favourite specimens by up to a million times. The results show incredibly detailed images of creepy crawlies in 3D.

The SEM is far more powerful than regular light microscopes that can only magnify by up to 1000 times. It builds extreme close-ups of anything that can fit inside the 4ft high device by bombarding it with electrons. The electrons send back messages which help to build up a super-accurate image – revealing every tiny feature of the insects’ bodies down to the last hair – in spectacular fashion.

Included in the ugly mix are a common house fly sticking out its tongue, human flea and honey bee. Steve chose insects because of the incredible shapes and patterns making up their bodies.

He said: ”For anyone involved in microscopy the SEM is the ultimate boy’s toy. Costing between £150,000 and £500,000, there are only a handful of people around the world who have access to this for fun. To be able to use equipment like this when I am retired is a dream come true. The SEM picks up basically where the normal light microscope finishes. And it takes it so much further by magnifying the specimen by up to a million times. Also different to a regular microscope is the fact the SEM builds a 3D image giving you a unique view.”

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

“Obtaining original material is difficult, and I’m constantly on the look out for new stuff. Getting hold of this collection from a vet I know was something of a treasure trove for me. he thing about electron microscope photography is you can have something that appears fairly mundane that produces a fabulous image, and other things you like the look of will not work.”

“You are never sure what you are going to find. It’s about looking more closely and finding the unknown. It’s about having the eye – seeing an image and recognising how it has impact.”

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

Steve Gschmeissner

”The insects were a great project for me. The level of detail in their tiny exoskeletons is simply beautiful to me and you can only really appreciate it with an SEM.”


Mr Gschmeisser retired from full-time electron microscope work at Cancer Research UK to pursue his interest in using the equipment to produce more artistic pictures for the Science Photo Library – which also backs the VoST awards. [funguerilla.com]

Information and image sources: 1 2

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