Color in Science: Microscopic Photographs

Color in Science: Microscopic Photographs

The Micropolitan Museum exhibits an unworldly spectrum visible only through the lens of a microscope. Painter Wim van Egmond photographs spectacular microscopic masterpieces with ethereal color palettes. To capture these hidden treasures, he uses a Zeiss Standard light microscope and an old Zeiss Photo-microscope. Several methods of illumination are employed: bright-field, dark-field, phase contrast, differential interference contrast, and Rheinberg illumination.

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Van Egmond's Insectarium offers such specimens as the iridescent butterfly wing, whose tiny scales possess a microscopic texture that refracts light. Here we find lavender blue and green.

Butterfly Wing Blue
Butterfly Wing Green


The delicate wing of the mosquito, on the other hand, is covered with ting feather-like structures. Deep greens, golds, and aquas are apparent.

Mosquito Wing Aqua
Mosquito Wing Gold


The Botanic Garden presents the vibrant red of grains of Lily pollen.

Lily Pollen Redlilly_pollen.jpg


The stem of the Mare's Tail, an aquatic flowering plant, offers dazzling purples and violets.

Mare’s Tail Purpleplantcellsbew2.jpg


The pine needle is ablaze with dark blue, light blue, bright red, and orange.

Pine Needle Orange
Pine Needle Aqua


The Freshwater Collection offers such things as the common water-flea (Daphnia longispina), which displays a palette of blues, orange, and green.

Water Flea Greendaphnialongispina.jpg


Green Algae (Micrasterias rotata) offer brilliant greens and blues.

Green Algae
Green Algae Blue


The water mite, a relative of spiders, is found in ponds and offers brilliant oranges and browns.

Water Mite Orangewatermite.jpg


The Marine Collection offers such creatures as the Obelia, a tiny relative of the jellyfish, with a brilliant yellow center.

Obelia Yellowobelia.jpg


Red algae (Rhodophyta) sport a distinctive, deep red.

cold pizzapolysiphonia_nigrescens450.jpg


Thanks to Wim van Egmond for inviting us into the astonishing world of microscopic color.


Craig ConleyAbout the Author, Craig Conley
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow

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Showing 1 - 21 of 21 Comments
These are such vivid and beautiful colors. I would never have expected a mosquito wing to look so pretty.
great article!!!
Bacteria Party

A palette for that top photo --

Phosphoric Plankton
Anton the Plankton
Lovely selection of images & colours! I really enjoyed the article. But I can't resist making a picky language comment. Wouldn't a "microscopic photograph" be a very tiny photograph? I think "micrograph" or "photomicrograph" would be the better term to use in your title.

Another palette for tiny life forms:

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great post

Last year I made my xmas cards using pictures taken w/my USB microscope.
Steph6!!! When I saw the title of this article I was thinking of the same exact pictures you posted. XD Love the colours on those ones.
Hip and vulgar

Hippuris vulgaris that is.
very cool article.
My buterfly wings:
vuela mariposa
I've run across some photos like these before and marveled at their beauty! It's like they are meant to be made into color palettes. Great article! :)
i'll never throw my leftovers out again ^_^

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