Nature is fascinating and being able to study it from different perspectives is an opportunity not many people get. Luckily for us, we get to see the enchanting results of those explorations that are no less valuable than the journeys themselves. 

In this article, we want to showcase the enchanting photographs taken by Dutch physicist Arie van 't Riet. He is a man whose work had taken him on a journey to becoming an artist. Arie specialized in low-energy X-rays in hospitals when he hit upon an interesting form of art. The artist went on to x-ray flowers, insects, lizards, turtles, cats and other animals, creating beautiful works of art he calls "bioramas". 

Arie wanted to point out that his floral-animal x-ray images are not made in the hospital, but in his studio where he has his own x-ray equipment with a license. As a medical physicist, the artist worked in the hospital from 1978 – 2012 in the departments of radiology, nuclear medicine and radiotherapy. The x-rayed animals are dead. "In my opinion, it’s not justified to expose living animals to the risk of x-rays for my purpose. I find traffic victims along the roadside. A friend breeds reptiles. In case one dies, I can have it. I buy fish on the market and insects - in specialized shops."

More info: Instagram | xrayimagesofnature.nl | Facebook

Arie's x-ray images are not composed of different layers. "It is not a composition of different x-rays. No stacked images. Not assembled. The complete setup of the natural scene (biorama) with animals and flowers is built and x-rayed in one session as a whole. I apply an analog technique and use Silvergelatine x-ray negatives. Kodak X-Omat V 33cm x 41cm."

#3

Wise Barn Owl In Oak Tree

Wise Barn Owl In Oak Tree

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Arie's idea to x-ray flowers and animals was born in the hospital. "I was involved in the teaching program on radiation physics and radiation safety for radiographers and physicians. I think in 2000 I started to challenge the students to x-ray flowers. It was a nice exercise demonstrating that even very thin objects can be imaged by x-rays. For this application, very low-energy x-rays were required. So it was for educational reasons that I started to x-ray flowers.

In 2007 I got my own studio with x-ray equipment. From that moment on I started to build complete nature scenes (bioramas) with plants, flowers and (dead) animals. I x-rayed the bioramas, digitized the greyscale x-ray negatives and partly colored them with Photoshop. So, I think 2007 is the starting point of my artistic x-rays."

#4

Field Of Tulips

Field Of Tulips

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#5

Young Hedgehog

Young Hedgehog

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If you wonder how these images are made exactly, Arie has an elaborate explanation for you!

Firstly, the artist samples plants, flowers, dead animals, etc. All the collected objects are then arranged upon an x-ray negative (33cmx41cm), packed in a light, tight envelope. This staged natural scene (biorama) is placed on the floor, the x-ray tube is positioned at a distance of about 1m above it. Beam on and an x-ray is made.

#6

Mouse On Amaryllis Flower

Mouse On Amaryllis Flower

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#7

Two Crows

Two Crows

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Afterward, in a dark room, the x-ray negative is taken out of the envelope and is put into the processing machine, resulting in a black and white x-ray image. The x-ray image is then digitized using a Vidar scanner (570 dpi, 12 bit). After that, the image is inverted and partly colored using Photoshop, and the result of that you can see yourselves!

#9

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

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"It all starts with the availability of an animal. When I find an animal I start collecting attributes (plants, flowers, etc.). Next, I build the biorama. Then I do some radiation measurements and make some x-ray tests to find the optimal x-ray technique (dose and energy). I estimate that the whole procedure from finding the animal to the partly colored x-ray takes about 2 full days."

#10

Heron In Flight

Heron In Flight

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Nikki Sevven
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Those wings look incredibly delicate, but let me tell you, when a heron takes flight from a spot 2m away from you, the sound of its wings flapping is loud and primordial and induces immediate terror.

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The most challenging part of the creative process for Arie is making the composition. "Usually, I want to make a still life that looks realistic." The moment the artist really enjoys is when the negative comes out of the processing machine for the first time. "That's the very first time I see the scene in X-ray. I am delighted and relieved when I succeeded. Unfortunately, it has to be repeated regularly because a leg turns out to be positioned wrong (unnaturally), or something similar. Then I have one negative less. And analog silver bromide films are becoming scarce and expensive."

#12

Protea And Python

Protea And Python

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Stealthzilla
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I would actually really love to have this on my wall

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#13

Yemen Chameleon In Front With Thistles In The Background

Yemen Chameleon In Front With Thistles In The Background

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"I love nature. It is amazing to see on x-rays the complex, wonderful and functional anatomy of animals. And all the similarities. Look at the elbow, knee, etc. of a reptile, bird, etc. all the same as the human. They all have the same setup, the same building plan. Even the trachea of the snake shows a construction like mine. I hope the x-ray images will contribute to the interest in nature."

#14

Frog Sitting On A Leaf Of Water Lily

Frog Sitting On A Leaf Of Water Lily

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#15

Dragonfly And Allium

Dragonfly And Allium

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Arie's images were published in a children's book by Gottmer publishers in 2017. In 2021, his work was published in English by Greystone Kids, titled "Inside In", and in June 2022, a second book titled "Doorgelicht" was published in Dutch by KNNV publishers for a wide audience of all ages interested in nature. Arie's images will also be exhibited in the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam from November 2022 – February 2023.

When it comes to the future, Arie would be very happy if he could get some (small) exotic animals from the zoo, like a flamingo, cockatoo, meerkat, etc. to make some new images!

#16

Octopus

Octopus

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Judy Reynolds
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

You can see the suckers through the various tentacles!

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#17

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

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#18

Salamanders, Frogs, Bumblebee, Water Beetle, Sword Flag And Water Gentian⁠

Salamanders, Frogs, Bumblebee, Water Beetle, Sword Flag And Water Gentian⁠

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#20

Cormorant

Cormorant

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#21

Turtles

Turtles

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Judy Reynolds
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The way the bones of the limbs are different in the different postures!

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#22

Pomfret Seaweed

Pomfret Seaweed

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#23

Parakeets On Orchid And Gloriosa

Parakeets On Orchid And Gloriosa

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Pam Akers
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I'm tellin' ya, the radiography of flowers would sell.

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#24

Cutlassfish

Cutlassfish

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#25

Duck Near Riverside

Duck Near Riverside

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Judy Reynolds
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The feathers add a lot of bulk to the duck!

#26

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

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Piper Panda
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I love the juxtaposition between the gentle black and white beauty of the shot itself and the barbed wire!

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#27

Black-Winged Stilt

Black-Winged Stilt

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#28

Frog Climbing Chamaerops

Frog Climbing Chamaerops

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#29

Ermine

Ermine

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Weim Central
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Those are some silly little legs under that luxurious fur!

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#30

Cormorants

Cormorants

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Piper Panda
Community Member
4 months ago Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The placement of their esophagus/es/i (???) it interesting. It must move freely? Someone’s in front of the spine and someone’s back or beside, or am I just seeing these wrongly?

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Note: this post originally had 75 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.