2019 Photomicrography Competition

Housefly compound eye pattern

Dr. Razvan Cornel Constantin

Bucharest, Romania

Focus Stacking, Reflected Light

50x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Flies look at the world in quite a different way than we do. Their eyes are made up of thousands of individual visual receptors called ommatidia, each of which is a functioning eye in itself. Therefore, a fly’s vision is comparable to a mosaic, with thousands of tiny images that converge together to represent one large visual image. The more ommatidia a compound eye contains, the clearer the image it creates.

A fly’s eyes are immobile, but their position and spherical shape give the fly an almost 360-degree view of its surroundings. Fly eyes have no pupils and cannot control how much light enters the eye or focus the images. Flies are also short-sighted — with a visible range of a few yards, and have limited color vision (for example, they don’t discern between yellow and white).

On the other hand, a fly’s vision is especially good at picking up form and movement. Because a fly can easily see motion but not necessarily what the moving object is, they are quick to flee, even if it is harmless.

In Their Own Words

A Q&A with Nikon Small World winner Dr. Razvan Cornel Constantin.

What is the subject matter of your winning image and why did you choose this image?

It is a closeup of a housefly decaying eye. The image doesn’t just show the structure of a compound eye but also what happens when the eye dries and the individual “cells” start to change color. It’s always a challenge to shoot at high magnification, and I thought this is a result worth sharing. The pattern is also very photogenic.

What are the special techniques and/or challenges faced in creating this photomicrograph?

For this picture I used focus stacking, which is challenging at high magnification because of the vibration of the camera and the rest of the equipment. At 50:1 the working distance is small for reflected light, so getting enough light onto the subject is always a struggle. Also, getting it diffused in such a way that the individual lenses on the eye reflect it in a pleasing way without losing detail was tricky.

What is your primary line of work?

I make my living as an automotive engineer, but when I get home and pick up my camera, that’s when the job stops and the passion begins.

How long have you been taking photographs through a microscope? What first sparked your interest in photomicrography?

I’ve been using microscopes for almost four years, gradually increasing the magnification as I got more experienced. I’ve always had a passion for wildlife, especially insects. As soon as I could afford it, I got a camera and macro lens. While shooting macro you always crave for more magnification and that’s why I got into photomicrography.

Do you tend to focus your microscopy toward a specific subject matter or theme? If so, why?

I can’t say that I have a specific subject, I find that almost any subject has at least a few interesting poses when put under a microscope at high magnification. As long as you can’t see it with the naked eye you always get that wow factor.