WPY 2014

Photograph Details

Finalist 2014

Natural Design

David Maitland, United Kingdom

The tracheal tree

David describes the dissected trachea of a silkmoth caterpillar as ‘a Medusa from another world’. The trachea acts as an insect’s lungs. The branched network of tubes delivers oxygen directly to every part of the body. The tiny passageways are prevented from collapsing by hoops of chitin, a substance that gives them a ridged appearance (an insect’s exoskeleton is also made up of chitin). ‘I find the fine structure of nature fascinating,’ says David. He captured this image from an old Edwardian microscope slide, using the very high magnification of a light microscope. ‘Once I had selected the frame of view, the main challenge was to adjust the lighting to create the atmosphere that I wanted.’ Working with a very shallow depth of field and little light, he revealed the exquisite detail of a caterpillar’s life-support system, which would normally be invisible to our eyes.

Technical specification

Canon EOS 5D Mark II + Olympus BX51 microscope at x40; 0.8 sec; ISO 50; differential interference contrast lighting.


Feltwell, UK: latitude 52.4854, longitude 0.518696 Feltwell, UK: latitude 52.4854, longitude 0.518696

Feltwell, UK

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David Maitland

David Maitland, United Kingdom

Photography featured prominently in David’s PhD studies of animal form and function, and he went on to become a full-time nature photographer in 2006. Based in Norfolk, UK, he is a close-up and super-macro specialist who has won many awards. His artistic portrayal of nature’s details is in great demand for bespoke publishing, advertising and television commissions.

  • Fading beauty
  • Sands of time