I recently decided to “digitize” some of my moth collection. However, my Canon EOS 30D could not capture the level of resolution I was looking for.

Inspired by Joseph Scheer’s “Night Visions: The Secret Designs of Moths,” I thought I’d try to scan my specimens. My first several attempts were less then satisfactory so off to Google through which I found Jim des Rivières website, which includes a page on the techniques. With this information and some more fiddling the parts started to come together. The main point was to adjust the setting to insure that there was no clipping, at least of the highlights, since I was aiming for a black background.

At last the moment of truth; scanning the specimen at 4800 dpi. The first scan was rather useless since one of the wings had not lain flat, so I had to weight down the wings. After this minor snag and some time, the scanning was finished. The files ranged between 1.73 gb and 367 mb so editing took some time. After the usual post processing (straightening, a bit of contrast adjustment and some sharpening), I created quarter sized copies of the individual moths and stitched them all together, though not in any particular order.

Here is the final, though heavily reduced, image:


To give an idea of the actual resolution here is a 100% crop from the full sized scan:


 Further information:

NY Times article on Joseph Scheer’s work; an interview with Scheer; or an excerpt from a Nat’l Geographic article

  1. Very nice. I remember an article in American Entomologist from maybe 2-3 years ago that discussed scanning to preserve living colors in dragonflies. Let me know if you want a citation.

  2. Thanks – if you don’t mind, drop me a note with the citation – the article may be online by now

  3. myrmecos said:

    That’s impressive. Have you thought about making posters?

  4. Very nice. Do the specimens get damaged by the ‘weighing down’ process?

  5. Thanks – the weights are about roughly equal to a penny – not very heavy, so no damage as long as the specimens are not moved around on the scanner.

    Alex – I really did this just out of curiosity, though posters would be quite interesting, now that you mention it.

    • Thanks – I actually ran across there site before – quite interesting

  6. Chris, here is the citation:

    Mitchell, F. L. and J. L. Lassell. 2000. Digital dragonflies. American Entomologist 46(2):110-115.

    A little older than I thought, and there are no online archives. I can send you a scan if you want, but the authors have a website by the same name – looks like they’ve got pages covering technique, hardware, software, etc.


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