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Moth scales

Mark R Smith, Macroscopic Solutions

Download this image from Wellcome Collection.

Scales on a Madagascan sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus). This is a large, colourful moth which flies during the day, while most other moths are only active at night. It is native to Madagascar and is often mistaken for a butterfly. As the wings move, they shimmer in the light and change colour, but these colours are an illusion. They come from light bouncing off the curved scales at different angles. The wings themselves hardly contain any colour pigment or dye.

The image is 750 micrometres (0.75 mm) wide.

Imaging technique: photomacrography

Close-up photography of small objects using a camera with specialist lenses, together with a method for stitching together multiple images. Multiple photographs of the object are taken at different focus distances and then combined or stitched together. This produces a final image with greater sharpness throughout and with more details preserved.

Location where image was created

Tolland, Connecticut, USA

Why did the judges choose this image?

“For me I like the fact that it was counterintuitive – obviously a moth’s wing is not the most visually stimulating thing in nature and yet we’ve got this image that is really bright, quite delicate to look at and just quite unexpected. What I look for in an image for the magazine is something that stops me and makes me go ‘Wow, that looks fantastic, what is it?’ and for me I would pick exactly this kind of image.”

James Cutmore, Picture Editor of BBC Focus

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