10/26/2013 09:29 am ET | Updated Oct 27, 2013

What Is That? 10 Amazing Photos Show It Can Be Hard To Tell Close Up From Far Away

How good is your eye? Can you identify a photo of a dragonfly wing when you see it? Or tell a close-up of snowflakes from a satellite photo of deforested land?

Sounds simple, but it's harder than you might imagine to tell apart the microscopic and macroscopic worlds. Just have a look at the amazing photos assembled by an unlikely duo at Salem State University in Salem, Mass. Geographer Dr. Stephen Young and biologist Dr. Paul Kelly have collected more than 50 such images for a joint exhibition at Salem and at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

How did the professors come up with the idea?

"A few years ago I saw some of his electron microscopic images and a few looked like a landscape," Dr. Young told The Huffington Post in an email. "I took one of my landscape images (dunes in the Sahara) and fooled him into thinking that it was an electron microscopic image."

There's a reason the images so tricky to tell apart. "Some patterns appear to repeat themselves in nature," Dr. Young said in the email. "The study of fractals has shown this for some patterns, where, as you zoom in, the same pattern repeats itself. Also, there is nothing in the image to provide you with a measure of scale and so it is all shape and pattern. Shape and pattern do not define size."

Interesting. So how many do you think YOU can get right? A focus group identified less than 60 percent of the images correctly, according to Dr. Young. Try guessing whether each image is macro or micro before peeking at the answer below.


It's... micro! This is a close-up of the wing of a Green Darner dragonfly.

micro macro

It's... micro again! This is a scanning electron microscope image of the surface of a piece of polished aluminum.

micro macro

It's... macro! This is a satellite image of North Africa.

micro macro

It's... macro! ISS astronauts snapped this photograph of deforestation in eastern Bolivia.

micro macro 1

It's... micro! This is a close-up of a crystal of sodium chloride, a.k.a. table salt!

micro macro

It's... macro! This is a satellite image of Western Australia.

micro macro

It's... macro! The ISS crew snapped this photograph of dune patterns in Algeria.

micro macro

It's... micro! This is an image of bone from an Atlantic Sturgeon.


It's... macro! This is a false-color satellite image of sea-ice in the Weddell Sea. Reddish regions indicate thick ice.

micro macro

It's... macro! This is a satellite image of northern Siberia.


A Micro Empire