Nature photography helps many of us come close to animals and wild lands without having to hop in the car or on a plane to experience them (although, they probably do end up inspiring us to travel and seek them out to view their beauty first-hand.)

Yet even the very best nature photography cannot capture the inner workings of animals and nature in a literal sense. What it captures instead is the beautiful inner “essence” of any area, plant, or animal.

But what if we told you these two endeavors could be combined?

Never had we imagined it possible, but indeed it is, thanks to the stunning new work of Dutch physicist-artist, Arie van’t Riet.

Van’t Riet writes on his website that he specialized in “radiation physics, especially in very low energy X-rays” and it was because of his expertise that one of his colleagues asked a favor of him: to take an X-ray of one of his paintings.

Van’t Riet, had never attempted to do something like this before, and was surprised that it ended up working. Then, a light bulb went off for him – what else could he X-ray?

He tried out a bouquet of tulips, and was amazed at the film that emerged. Since X-ray photographs turn out as analogs of the original and in black and white, he took the image, digitized and inverted it, and then colorized it in Photoshop.

“And then some people told me that’s art, and I became an artist,” van’t Riet said in his recent TEDxGroningen talk.

He has continued to create these images, which he calls “bioramas,” and they have since become more elaborate, featuring scenes with flowers and animals.

The animals featured in his photos are not affected by the radiation, as most have already passed on and were discovered dead outdoors or on local roads, so perhaps his images can even be considered a homage to the beautiful creatures we have shared the land with.

On his website, van’t Riet states, “Looking with X-ray eyes to nature. That’s what I like to experience with my X-ray camera. I prefer X-ray objects of ordinary scenes like a butterfly nearby a flower, a fish in the ocean, a mouse in the field, a haron along the riverside, a bird in a tree.”

“Each time it [challenges] me to arrive at an X-ray photograph that represents the sentiment of the scene,” he continues.

Check out just a few of van’t Riet’s remarkable X-ray photographs below – truly, they capture the beauty of animals and nature like never before.

Tulip field

Water lily, marsh marigold, lily leaves, frog


Hanging Begonia, Chameleon


Medinella, snake and monitor lizard

Tawny owl

Trachycarpus wagnerianus, azalea, turtles

Strilicia, Chameleon

Snails, tulip field

View more of these stunning photos on van’t Riet’s website, and for a more detailed background on his X-ray photography work, be sure to watch his 8-minute TED talk and learn how he does it.

All images: Arie van ‘t Riet