Photomicrography winners

Today we’ll dispense with readers’ wildlife photographs, as I want to save some until I return from Asia in about 3 weeks. Instead, reader John O’Neall called my attention to Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography Champions, and I’ll like to present a few of the winners. They give us an idea of the marvels of nature that we don’t normally see.

First, the grand prize. Four-day-old zebrafish embryo (10x). Technique: Confocal. Photo by Dr. Oscar Ruiz, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas:


The second prize went to Douglas L. Moore at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. It’s called “Polished slab of Teepee Canyon agate” (90x). Technique: steromicroscopy.


Fifth place went to Dr. Igor Siwanowicz from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn Virginia. It’s the front foot (tarsus) of a male diving beetle (100x), taken using confocal microscopy:


This photo of  wildflower stamens won Samuel Silberman of Israel 8th place. It’s a 40x picture taken using fiber optic illumination:

This photo, by Geir Drange of Asker, Norway, took 15th place. It’s a head section of an orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata(10x), taken using reflected Light and focus stacking.


This photo, by Charles Krebs of Issaquah, Washington, got an honorable mention. It shows the tail of a a small shrimp. 40x, reflected light:


There are many more photos at the site; go have a look.


  1. Posted October 23, 2016 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I’d like to see a picture of a photon. I’ve always wondered what they look like.

    • Posted October 23, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      They’re small, round, yellow, and fast.

      • Posted October 23, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        I suppose, however, that they come in different colors. I imagine the blue/violet ones bigger than red ones, though I guess it is primitive to regard size as measure of energy content.

      • Newish Gnu
        Posted October 24, 2016 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        They’re Pokémon?

    • Posted October 24, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      A. Einstein sort of had the same wonder – part of the motivation for special relativity was trying to figure out what would happen if you followed along side a beam of light at its speed. Perhaps, he thought, you’d see an electromagnetic field at rest.

      And of course then discovered one couldn’t.

  2. Posted October 23, 2016 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Wonderful photos. I love this stuff If people want to learn more about how they can make these kinds of photos, I recommend this forum:
    It is a goldmine of information, and I recognize the names of at least ten of this year’s Nikon Small World winners as regular contributors to that forum.

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 23, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Always a lot of fun to look at this sort of thing.
    I think the bulges on the zebrafish must be its eyes, covered with the corneal epithelium. These cells would be very transparent in natural light, of course.
    The confocal microscopy used in the diving beetle leg is pretty clever. This method rasters a laser beam across a specimen to get fluorescent stains to glow, as would be what was done in the zebrafish picture. Only here I suppose the confocal laser was used to bring up the natural fluorescence of insect cuticle.

  4. rickflick
    Posted October 23, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Fascinating. Years a go I started taking pictures of small objects. Not as small as these, but smaller than what we normally observe. It struck me that there was a whole world out there of small stuff that most people are unaware of, and it was ripe for exploration.
    One of the most interesting here is number 32, “Gears coupling hind legs of a planthopper nymph”

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted October 23, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      I vaguely remember that being an item of discovery and research some years ago. I wish I recalled the details, but perhaps they couple the base of their jumping hind legs with gears to direct some sort of extra ooomph into their jump.

      • rickflick
        Posted October 23, 2016 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        A quick Google search give:

        The gears synchronize the movement of the hind legs to within about 30 microseconds of each other — much faster than the nervous system could achieve. This prevents the the critter from spinning out of control. How did this evolve?

        There’s a video on this page that shows the gears in action:

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 23, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Looks like Dr. Siwanowicz took that pic of the diving beetle’s paw from a Yellow Submarine.

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