olympus microscope

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Magnified Peacock Feathers

Peacock feathers are stunning from afar—the fan, the pageantry—but they become something entirely different close up.

British Columbia-based photographer Waldo Nell is an expert at capturing the extraordinary, even when he’s not working with a camera. Nell actually uses an Olympus BX53—that’s a microscope for the less scientific among us—to capture the most extreme closeups of the natural world, such as fish, insects, and these arresting photos of peacock feathers. After capturing the minute details of each with the microscope, Nell creates image composites that result in these high-def photos.

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Watching Embryos Develop From Earliest Moments

Using new microscopy techniques, researchers are getting to watch life develop from the beginning. The gifs above were created from work being done at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Scientists William Lemon, Fernando Amat and Philipp Keller recorded the developing embryo of a fly called Drosophila melanogaster three hours after it was laid as an egg until it started crawling.

To view the fitful movements that occur in the embryo as early nonspecific cells transform into specialized ones and systems develop, they attached fluorescent compounds that glow under certain light to proteins in the nucleus of the its cells. They then trained a device called a simultaneous multiview light-sheet microscope onto the developing organism to follow the action, and took a picture every 30 seconds over the course of a day.

Their work, published last year in the journal Nature Methods, investigated the tracking and development of nuclei to understand where cells start and where they wind up. Understanding this evolution is one of the main goals of developmental biology. 

Keep reading

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Peacock feathers

Photographer Waldo Nell using a Olympus BX 53 microscope has captured the delicate details of peacock feathers. Using the microscope Waldo took hundreds of individual shots that were combined to create each image above.

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Magnified Peacock Feathers Look Like Pure Woven Magic

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PEACOCKS ARE RENOWNED for their beauty. But to truly appreciate them, take a look at Waldo Nell’s photographs.

His images show the feathers magnified up to 500 times what you would see. Every line and curve appears in luminous definition, the colors shifting from green to blue to gold. “From afar you only see the pattern of the eye,” Nellsays. “From up close you can see the bundles of barbules and coloration unique to each segment. There is a lot of beauty hidden that you can only see up close.”

The South African photographer began shooting peacock feathers three years ago after seeing a photo of one and wondering what such remarkable feathers might look like through a microscope. He started buying plumes from his local craft store, cutting them into strips, and peering at them through a Canon Rebel T3i mounted on an Olympus BX53 microscope. Depending upon the level of magnification, he illuminated them from the sides with LEDs or from above with an X-Cite 120. “The barbules are highly reflective due to the iridescence, so getting lighting just right is very hard,” he says.

Nell took hundreds of photographs, shooting at different depths of field to get a perfectly crisp image. Then he then exported them all into Helicon Focus, a post-production software, to stack them. Then he spent hours adjusting the color and contrast and making other tweaks. The resulting photographs are a composite of 50 to 250 images.

You would think Nell loves peacocks. But he says the project grew from his fascination with the unseen world around us. “I basically put anything I think has potential under the microscope—some things pan out, others [don’t],” he says. “Peacock feathers were an awesome find.”