One thing I’ve come to realize as I get older and more mature is that the beauty of life is often hidden away in the small details. Try examining a sunflower up close this summer and you’ll see that the seeds aren’t just packed in the center willy-nilly – there’s a beautiful, geometric symmetry to their arrangement. We tend to overlook the beauty of the world around us as we move through it, propelled by the never-ending demands of modern life, but it’s there if you look for it.
Macro photography is the art of magnifying small objects to present a stunning new level of detail. Though there are some minute differences between micro and macro photography, for a layman’s understanding the two terms can be thought of interchangeably. In fact, Canon’s lenses for such photography are called “macro” while Nikon’s lenses are labeled as “micro,” even though both are essentially the same lens designed for the same purpose.
Macro photography can also be done using a microscope to provide adequate magnification. As anyone who’s ever seen stuff under a microscope can tell you, it looks like an alien world at that level. Anything seen in that much detail looks almost completely new and different, with a raw, elemental beauty to it. That’s exactly what you see in photographer Waldo Nell’s following series of photographs, in which he used a microscope to photograph a peacock feather.
People have been fascinated by the beauty of peacock feathers for centuries. The peacock is the national bird of India, and their bright, colorful plumage has been associated with royalty and divinity in many other cultures as well.
Waldo Nell is a software engineer and photographer who decided to put peacock feathers under a microscope, revealing some truly stunning details.
At this level, the individual fibers on the feather are clearly visible in vivid detail. They look like fields of gold and gems.
Nell’s images are actually composites from hundreds of photos of the same feather section, taken at varying distances. He then digitally layers them together to create the final image.
The results are singularly vibrant.
At this distance, the feathers look completely otherworldly.
Almost like dense coils of industrial wiring …
… or some kind of spindly undersea creature.
A dense, lush forest of metallic sapphire, gold, turquoise.
The frenzied brush strokes of a master artist, perhaps?
Or endless fields of lavender serenity.
It’s almost hard to believe that something that’s already so beautiful could be hiding even more beauty if we get up close.
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