Microscopic Images Of Butterfly Wings

If you’ve ever taken a look at our microscopic images of seeds, you already know just how breathtaking tiny parts of nature can be. Especially when they’re placed under a microscope. Chris Perani has used his photography skills to create microscopic images of butterfly wings that are absolutely stunning.

To create these works of art, Chris has an almost scientific approach to the process. First, he photographs the wings using a 10x microscope objective attached to 200mm lens. Next, he uses a focus rail to achieve a focused image on the wings, which can be as small as 8 millimeters. He collects 350 exposures and then composites them together. This process is repeated six times to creates six different “puzzle pieces” that are then combined to create the final result.

Though this process is complex, it creates an image that is simply incredible.

Blue White Hamadryas wings
Blue white Hamadryas wings. Photo by Chris Perani

Chris mentions that he never thought that he’d find himself in the position of running around with a net, desperately trying to catch butterflies and dragonflies. But that was exactly how this whole project came about two years ago at a local golf course.

sunset Madagascar moth wings
Madagascan sunset moth wings. Photo by Chris Perani

Living north of San Francisco, often times he takes landscape photographs of waterfalls, giant redwoods,  and green hillsides. However, when fall rolls around, Chris finds himself on the lookout for new, vibrant subjects.

Sasakia charonda coreana butterfly wing
Sasakia charonda coreana wings. Photo by Chris Perani

One summer, Chris decided to challenge himself and invest in a macro lens. This purchase ended up spurring into a whole new hobby: extreme macro photography. He started to see the beauty in even the tiniest pieces of nature and loved the process of discovering all the little textural details of water, leaves, and spider webs. What came next was the purchase of the butterfly net.

butterfly wing
Photo by Chris Perani

He realized that if he was able to capture small insects and place them in studio lighting, he’d be able to get highly focused, well-lit images, as compared to photographing nature that was constantly moving.

Hypolimnas Salmacis
Hypolimnas salmacis wings. Photo by Chris Perani

When he was researching a process for photographing his tiny subjects, Chris came across Levon Biss’ Microsculpture videos for shooting insects with microscopic objectives. He quickly came up with a similar setup and got to work.

Agraulis Vanillae wings
Agraulis vanillae wings. Photo by Chris Perani

After dealing with the frustration of out-of-focus images, Chris developed his own technique, the one initially described at the introduction of this article. Now that he has his own process, Chris has really taken a dedication to this type of photography, calling this latest project “Butterfly Wings”.

Check out more of Chris’ work below!

Blue Peruvian Morpho Didius
Blue Peruvian morpho didius wings. Photo by Chris Perani
saturn moth rothschildia
Saturn moth rothschildia wings. Photo by Chris Perani
butterfly wings
Photo by Chris Perani
Indonesian Cethosia Hypsea
Indonesian cethosia hypsea wings. Photo by Chris Perani
Salamis parhassus
Salamis parhassus wings. Photo by Chris Perani
butterfly wing
Sunset Madagascar moth. Photo by Chris Perani
butterfly wings
Photo by Chris Perani
Baeotus Japetus
Baeotus japetus wings. Photo by Chris Perani

Written by Leigha Staffenhagen

Leigha Staffenhagen is our managing editor. When she isn’t writing and editing for Insteading, she’s reading, going to Mariners games, practicing yoga, tap dancing, weeding in her grandma's garden beds, and attempting to grow her own apartment garden.


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  1. Whilst technically brilliant and stunning to look at. I assume that each picture was proceeded by the untimely death of a stunning insect snatched From the natural world to fulfil a “project”. What other purpose does this hobby serve than described. Apologise if I have mistaken the intent. Thank’s. Alan

  2. May I post these photos on Facebook please with the photographers name included of course?
    These photos have changed my perception of moths and butterflies, I am in awe.
    Thank you from Jan

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