Where You See a Bug, Levon Biss Sees a Portrait

Levon Bliss takes magnification to new heights with an extraordinary series of photos of bugs. (Photo: Snapshot from video)

If you love insects, you know that looking at them up-close reveals incredibly detailed colors, patterns and articulated limbs. They are miniature wonders.

It's these close encounters that can create a newfound admiration for the creatures — even if your usual reaction to bugs isn't so warm. But how do you get a closer look? Seeing a tiny insect or part of one under a microscope can capture only a portion of the whole creature. Even the best macro photography of your favorite beetle doesn't show every exquisite detail.

Photographer Levon Biss has solved that problem in a particularly painstaking way.

Levon Biss working on photographing and insect.
Levon Biss takes weeks to make just one composite image of each insect. (Photo: YouTube)

Biss, a sports and portrait shooter, creates giant, super-detailed pictures of insects by taking 200 to 300 images of a small part of a given creature, with each shot at a slightly different focal point. Then, he takes those images and makes a mosaic. Finally, he pieces the mosaics together — about 30 of them.

"The pinned insect is placed on an adapted microscope stage that enables me to have complete control over the positioning of the specimen in front of the lens. I shoot with a 36-megapixel camera that has a 10x microscope objective attached to it via a 200mm prime lens," Biss writes on his website. You can learn more about his fascination with the bugs and his detailed process in the video below:

The resulting images are massive, with canvases covering a wall, each including from 6,000 to 10,000 pictures, all perfectly connected to reveal a stunning whole.

Biss started off working from home with specimens from his own garden, but he thought it could be a bigger project. He reached out to an entomologist at Oxford University, and through their relationship, he gained access to one of the world's most extensive collections of insects. He borrows the most interesting looking samples from the university and works with them at home. Each bug portrait takes two to three weeks to create.

An exhibition of 25 of Biss' photographs will be on display at The University of Oxford's Natural History Museum through Oct. 31.