Three dimensional images

A native dung beetle, Onthophagus dunningi. A native dung beetle, Onthophagus dunningi.

These amazing 3D insect images are a by-product of scientific photography. Taking photographs of tiny insects used to be almost impossible because their small size made it difficult to keep the whole photograph in focus. The top of the insect would be in focus but the bottom structures would be blurred. This is called small depth of field.

Modern computer technology has solved this problem. Scientists now take about 30 digital photographs of an insect, starting at the very top of its body and then moving the focus knob down a little each time, until only the very lowest parts are sharp.

The photographs are fed into the Automontage computer program, which takes the sharp sections of each photograph and combines them into one clear image. Clicking one more button then produces these incredible 3D photographs.

A jumper ant, Myrmecia nigrocincta. A jumper ant, Myrmecia nigrocincta.

3D Glasses

To see the three dimensional images, you need to wear a pair of special glasses that allow your eyes to view an image from slightly different angles. Two images of the object are produced, one as if you were looking with your left eye and one with your right eye. The two images are superimposed on each other, printed in two different colours and in slightly different positions. The glasses have one red lens and one coloured cyan-blue, to filter out the other image (printed in the opposite colour). This means that each eye sees the image produced for it. The combination of the two tricks our brain into thinking that it is really looking at a 3D image.

You can either make your own glasses with the instructions below; or you can buy a complete set of 3D photos with glasses, “Amazing 3D Insects”, available from the Queensland Museum Shop, South Bank.

Making your own 3D glasses

A lace bug, Australotingis sp. A lace bug, Australotingis sp.

You will need:

  • Red cellophane
  • Blue cellophane
  • Cardboard for making glasses frames
  • Scissors
  • Glue or sticky tape

What to do

  1. Design frames for the glasses and cut them out of the cardboard.
  2. Glue or tape red cellophane over the left eye of the glasses and blue cellophane over the right eye.

Glasses instructions have been developed from original information from Questacon, The National Science and Technology Centre.

The face of an American Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens. The face of an American Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.