Submitted to: American Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 15, 2008
Publication Date: December 31, 2008
Citation: Kerr, P.H., Fisher, E.M., Buffington, M.L. 2008. Dome lighting for insect imaging under a microscope. American Entomologist. 54:198-200.
Interpretive Summary: Systematic entomology, or the classification of insects, is a visual science. Images are used in scientific publications, web-based keys to species, and digital keys distributed on cd-rom to illustrate important insect structures. Effective and useful communication about economically important species depends on the ability to take high resolution images of insects, especially tiny insects, where magnification and clarity is critical. In this paper, we describe a novel method for building an illumination dome for high magnification digital photography. Other research entomologists, web-designers, biological control workers, and extension entomologists will benefit from this method.
The most basic element of photography is the interaction of light on the subject being imaged. In cases where magnification and clarity is of great importance, such as the imaging of insects for scientific illustration, controlling light can be especially challenging. The intense light needed to visualize microscopic elements such as setae and ultrastructural sculpturing may often overcompensate the light levels needed in other areas, especially for high color contrast and/or reflective specimens. Projecting halogen fiber optic lights over diffusers such as mylar or Styrofoam is one method used to overcome this imbalance successfully, however these methods typically involve a great deal of setup time and experience. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are a cheap, powerful, and energy efficient light source that are now being used more frequently in the visualization of insects under a microscope. One technique that has shown promise for quick and effective insect imaging is using LEDs in conjunction with an open dome to create a diffused, soft light arena for photography. Though commercially available illumination domes exist, creating a dome lighting system of your own is in fact easy and inexpensive. We detail how a variety of dome systems can be made using easily acquired materials and identify a few important considerations for effectively imaging challenging subjects under a microscope.