Insects are great, super diverse and come in all shapes and sizes. Many people like the sight of beautiful insects and macro photographers give it their best shot trying to capture its beauty. So too have I decided to buy a DSLR camera with a macro lens and try to shoot some half decent pictures of any spider or insect I come across. Some examples:
Although macro photography, when practiced enough, can give amazing results, it always remains just a picture from a single point of view. Australian researchers encountered exactly this problem when working with their insect collection, single point of view photographs simply weren’t enough to study the intricate differences between insect species. Specimens had to be shipped to other researchers for a closer look if they wanted to study them. Nguyen and colleagues decided it was high time to find a solution to this problem.
Scanning insects in 3D
Nguyen and colleagues didn’t just want to design a system which could capture insects in 3D, they wanted to design a system which could both capture insects in 3D in true color and be affordable at the same time (2200 to 3900 euro for the setup). Their solution was to use a standard DSLR camera and a 2-axis turntable to shoot many pictures of the same insect (see figure below). Using this setup, they shot pictures of different viewpoints and different focusing depths which were combined into a 3D model using a computer.
Of course the computer has to know how to put all these pictures together. To help the computer a bit, they used a disk with a pattern of dots so the computer would be able to combine the different pictures into a proper 3D file (see figure below). The pattern is used by the computer to assess from which angle the picture was taken.
Their method was able to make beautiful 3D scans of insects. As is seen in the granary weevil below. They even present several examples online, were you yourself can look at insects from all angles! Take a look here to see for yourself.
All in all, they developed an awesome technique to share the beauty of insects with the entire world. And for that, I thank them.
Nguyen CV, Lovell DR, Adcock M, La Salle J (2014) Capturing Natural-Colour 3D Models of Insects for Species Discovery and Diagnostics. PLoS ONE 9(4): e94346. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094346