All photos by Justin Zoll. Used with Creative Commons permission.
The invention of the microscope has opened our eyes to a totally surreal and stunning realm that would otherwise be unknown to us. It led to countless breakthroughs, not only in science but also art. A perfect example is how Ithaca, New York-based Justin Zoll has found a way to use the power of microscopy to reveal the colorful and kaleidoscopic world hiding beneath crystallized amino acids. If you’re into the unique imagery created by the merging of art and science, you’ll surely find this body of work fascinating.
While Zoll also lists landscapes, portraiture, and weddings under his specializations, his scientific photography and microscopy work remain his most intriguing and impressive. His photos below of crystallized L Glutamine and Beta Alanine Amino Acids are so otherworldly that they seem to be abstract digital artworks at first glance. However, he assures us that these images show the completely natural formations of crystalline amino acids.
He explains in his set description that these crystals were grown on glass slides at home, then photographed at 40x magnification in panorama using an Olympus BH2 microscope and Canon 5D MKIII. He used polarizing filters to reveal and take advantage of the crystals’ birefringent properties. “The combination of polarized light and this birefringence lends the colors to the otherwise transparent structures,” he added.
On his website, Zoll shared that he has spent the past two years experimenting with this technique of photographing various substances at high magnification. He calls his results Microscopic Landscapes, which is a fitting term given that we’re essentially looking at a psychedelic world hidden in plain sight. The colors we see, he added, are not digital creations but the natural result of using polarized lighting on micro-crystals that exhibit birefringent optical properties. We actually see what he saw under the microscope. How cool is that?
On a side note, if you’re curious about how birefringence works, here’s a cool video explaining this optical property.
Make sure you check out Justin Zoll’s website and Behance portfolio to see more and stay updated with his work.