A Lesser-Known Branch of Wildlife Photography

For many wildlife enthusiasts, photography is a popular hobby that nicely coincides with enjoyment of the natural world. Not only can beautiful memories and exciting natural behaviours be timelessly captured for personal enjoyment, they can also be shared and exchanged with others, so that learning and enjoyment of wildlife-based scenes can be extended to reach many communities.

One lesser known branch of wildlife photography, seeking to further strengthen the relationship between photography and learning, is that of optical microscopy. This approach to photography seeks to integrate art, science and the environment through capturing detailed images of minute natural lifeforms, originally witnessed using microscopes.

butter daisy

Photo subject: A Butter Daisy

Microscopy Imaging relies on a variety of components. The following gives a very brief summary of some key elements:


Microscopes are tools that use light to effectively produce magnified images of smaller objects. They perform 3 key tasks, including producing a magnified image of a specimen, separating the details within the image and rendering these so that they become suitable to be understood by the human eye or a camera.

Specialised Techniques

The most frequently used microscopy technique today involves fluorescence illumination and observation. Often used in medical and biological studies, the development of the technique has rapidly increased over time, thus resulting in the creation of more sophisticated microscopes and fluorescence accessories.

Digital Imaging

Using camera equipment to digitalise the images produced by optical microscopes enables the resulting images to be greatly improved in terms of features, the level and quality of information that can be extracted from them, and the ability to modify them.

Development over time

Using photography to capture microscopic images can be dated back to the invention of the basic photographic process. Early microscopy images were very advanced for their time, however the techniques were laborious and often suffered as a result of issues such as over long exposures.

mosquito lava

Photo subject: Mosquito Lava

From an artistic, as opposed to scientific, perspective however, the images are equally as valuable. The resulting images of microscopic photography are often visually stunning, colourful, engaging and provide rare and fascinating insights to a world that would ordinarily be too small to be properly witnessed by human eye.

louse fly and egg

Photo Subject: Louse fly and egg

The Olympus BioScapes Competition is held by the current foremost organisation seeking to showcase the work of optical microscopy photographers. The images and short films of organisms captured through light microscopes are submitted to a panel of respected microscopy experts, who then select a series of winners and photographs they believe deserve honourable mentions. As the competition receives around 2,500 images from approximately 70 countries each year, this can be a long and difficult task. The 2014 competition entries and winners can be found here: http://www.olympusbioscapes.com/gallery/year/2014


Photo subject: Weevils

Although currently microscopy imaging is usually carried out by scientists and professionals, there is an expanding community of amateur optical microscopy photographers. To find out more about this branch of photography, including interactive tutorials and further information about the concepts behind microscopic photography, please visit: http://www.olympusmicro.com/

If you would like to see the 2014 exhibition for yourself, you can learn more from the following link: http://www.olympusbioscapes.com/museum-tour. Currently the exhibition is only available to visit at select locations in America, however mounting increase of interest and developments in this branch of photography could mean that exhibitions may be more accessible for UK enthusiasts, in the future.

jumping spider

Photo subject: Jumping Spider

Photo Credits:

Csaba Pintér

Francis Prior

Oleksandr Holovachov

Yousef Al Habshi

Charles Krebs

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