For her personal project, 10th grader Maya Juman photographed natural objects through a compound light microscope and compiled her favorite images into a photo book. She waded through thousands of images and chose her favorite forty to include in her book titled, Invisible Beauty. You can download a pdf of her book here: Invisible Beauty
1. What was your inspiration for doing this project?
I was inspired to explore photomicrography for my personal project after seeing a photo gallery at the American Museum of Natural History, with microscopic images of insects, fossils and artifacts. I was interested in photographing feathers, insects, sand and other organic materials on my own, using the compound light microscope instead of a high-powered electron microscope. I took my photographs using a Nikon 1 V2 camera with a macro lens. I was also inspired to look at insects because of my own mild phobia of them. I wanted to take photographs that would reveal the beauty in bugs to myself and others.
2. What did you learn while doing this project?
This project gave me a greater appreciation for the natural world, especially the world beyond the naked eye. Without it, I never would have had the chance to examine a spider’s knee, or the scratches on the surface of a grain of sand. My personal project opened up my world a lot, and expanded my definition of beauty. I found beauty in places I never would have expected to find it, like algae, blood, or gnats. It also helped me improve my skills with the compound light microscope and digital camera.
3. Which photo is your favorite?
My favorite photograph is of a Sunset Moth wing (Urania ripheus, photograph above) at a magnification level of x100. Butterfly and moth wings were some of my favorite specimens, and ironically, this moth wing was more beautiful under magnification than the wings of butterflies. The photograph captures the change in the color of the wing scales from iridescent green, to purple, to orange. I remember placing the wing under the microscope, looking through the eyepiece and knowing immediately that I was looking at one of my best photographs. I didn’t even have to rearrange the wing or edit the photograph; it was just so beautiful on its own.
4. Any advice for kids in the future about doing their personal projects?
Apart from the usual suggestions about time-management and procrastination, I would advise rising sophomores to choose their personal project topic wisely. It’s extremely important to pick something that you’re interested in; not just something that you think will be easy, or will get you a good grade. Ultimately, it will be difficult to work on a project for seven months when you are not doing something you love. Make sure you spend time over the summer thinking about what you would like to focus on. The personal project does not have to be boring; it wasn’t for me. It’s up to you to turn it into something amazing and fun.
Read the other articles in our Personal Project Series: