Two weeks ago I bought a Canon 40D DSLR camera for terrestrial work.  While playing with this beast it struck me that by using the same mosaic techniques that we use in creating big deep-sky panoramas – we could actually create gigapixel images! 

Why should we want to do that? 

Well, one reason is that we could print out very large images at extremely high resolution – something that wouldn’t have been seen before – so this might have some interesting effects on the eye-brain system.  Secondly – if kept on the computer monitor – you would be able to zoom in to see incredibly small detail.

I actually thought I might have been the first to come up with this idea, but a quick Google search shows that Max Lyons beat me by just over four years. 

Never mind – I then thought about taking big mosaic images down a microscope – Max beat me to that one too 🙂

Admitting defeat I thought I’d look at an area that doesn’t seem to have dealt with so far – butterflies! 

In my University photonics work we have studied some forms of butterfly in great depth trying to understand how they produce shiny metallic iridescent colours.  To our amazement, certain butterflies’ actually use photonic crystal-like structures to achieve this effect – precisely the research area I am working in.  However, the point is, I have access to some very interesting butterflies where I could try out this high resolution imaging using a standard 100mm macro lens.

The accompanying image of the underside of a butterfly’s wing is only an 8-frame mosaic, but I printed this out on the big HP Designjet 130 at A1 size [roughly 22″ x 32″].  The result is amazing.  Looking at the picture from a few feet it looks just like a nice, large image of a butterfly wing.  But then if you walk right up to the picture and study it, you can actually see each individual scale that makes up the pattern on the wing! 

On the picture the scales measure about 1.2mm x 1.0mm and they are actually around 3-4 microns (millionths of a metre) in size!  It really is an extraordinary experience – and as it’s not something you will have experienced before, you find yourself walking up and down looking at the picture from near and far trying to make it out.

Just thought I’d like to share yet another lesson learnt from deep-sky imaging that can be effectively applied to other areas of photography.

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