November 22, 2010 at 9:05 am

Winners (’07-’10) from Nikon’s Small World Competition [20 pics]

by twistedsifter

nikon small world competition

Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography Competition is regarded as the leading forum for showcasing the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope. For over 30 years, Nikon has rewarded the world’s best photomicrographers who make critically important scientific contributions to life sciences, bio-research and materials science.

The subject matter is unrestricted and any type of light microscopy technique is acceptable, including phase contrast, polarized light, fluorescence, interference contrast, darkfield, confocal, deconvolution, and mixed techniques.

Below is a collection of the top five images from 2006 – 2010. Be sure to visit Nikon’s Small World site for all past winners and notable entries dating back to 1977! An incredible archive with information on every image. Enjoy!


1st place: Jonas King – Mosquito Heart 100x magnification (Fluorescence)

jonas king mosquito heart Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Anopheles gambiae (mosquito heart) was captured at 100x magnification. Jonas works out of Vanderbilt University’s Hillyer Lab, which studies the interactions between mosquitoes and their pathogens, along with salivary components and how they interact with the vertebrate host’s immune response.

The image details the structural organization of the mosquito heart and provides insight into how mosquitoes move blood to all regions of their bodies. Jonas notes, “Mosquitoes remain one of the greatest scourges of mankind. Malaria infects hundreds of millions of people annually and is believed to have a major impact on the economies of endemic regions.”

2nd place: Hideo Otsuna – 5-day old Zebrafish Head 20x magnification (Confocal)

hideo otsuna zebrafish head Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Dr. Hideo Otsuna’s image of a five-day old zebrafish head, magnified 20x, was taken using FlouRender, the university’s interactive rendering tool for confocal microscopy data visualization, which is designed especially for neurobiologists to help them better visualize the fluorescent-stained confocal samples.

3rd place: Oliver Braubach – Zebrafish olfactory bulbs 250x magnification (Confocal)

zebrafish olfactory bulbs 250x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

The processes that shape and change the developing and mature brain are some of the most complex in science. That’s exactly what Oliver Braubach sought to explore when snapping the photo of zebrafish olfactory bulbs. These structures bulge out of the anterior part of the brain and serve to organize and relay incoming olfactory information.

The image taken for Small World was taken as part of preliminary experiments aimed at developing anatomical labels for different structures in the olfactory bulb. Since developing these labels, Oliver has used them to investigate how fibers from the nose contact cells in the brain and how these connections refine after they are initially formed.

4th place: Riccardo Taiariol – Wasp nest 10x magnification (Extended depth of field Steromicroscopy)

wasp nest 10x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

A lawyer from Italy, Riccardo Taiariol proves this with his beautiful image of a wasp nest, magnified 10x.

Microscopy is a hobby to Riccardo which he has been involved in for ten years. He generally looks to take pictures of protozoa, flowers and insects, which are relatively easy to find for those who are not scientists by trade.

5th place: Viktor Sykora – Bird of paradise seed 10x magnification (Darkfield)

bird of paradise seed 10x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Viktor Sykora’s image of a bird of paradise seed was taken as part of a collection he is preparing for a publication about plant microphotography. His primary line of work is medical research and the development of new treatment strategies, but his hobby also happens to be photography.

The goal of this photo was to document variability in shape inside the plant world, which it demonstrates with exceptional aesthetic effect. It was taken using a stereomicroscope and digital camera.


1st place: Heiti Paves – Thale cress anther 20x magnification (Confocal)

heiti paves thale cress anther 20x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Thale Cress is the first plant to have its genome fully sequenced and is commonly used as a model in scientific research. But it was the unusually artistic appearance of the winning shot that inspired photomicrographer and plant biologist Dr. Heiti Paves of the Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia to enter the image into the 35-year-old competition.

Dr. Paves has studied chicken embryo development, embryonic neurons and plants, all under a microscope. His first-place image, using confocal microscopy to document the anther of a tiny thale cress plant, was a byproduct of his research on motor proteins that move organelles in plant cells.

2nd place: Gerd A. Guenther – Spiny Sowthistle flower stem section 150x magnification (Darkfield)

gerd guenther spiny sowthistle 150x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Not all of the winning images were created by scientists using expensive state-of-the-art equipment. Gerd A. Guenther is an organic farmer from Düsseldorf, Germany where he produces vegetables, potatoes and hay for horses.

His stunning picture of a thin cross section of the stem of a Sonchus asper blossom, a yellow blooming wildflower often found on farmland, won second prize. The plant was magnified 150 times, bringing a new perspective to the wonders of nature.

3rd place: Pedro Barrios-Perez – Wrinkled photoresist 200x magnification (Brightfield)

pedro barrios perez wrinkled photoresist 200x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Dr. Pedro Barrios-Perez used brightfield to capture the wrinkled photoresist magnified 200 times in his winning image. Dr. Barrios-Perez of the Institute for Microstructural Sciences at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa, won third place with a failed attempt to develop a photoresist pattern on a semiconductor.

“These pictures are taken out of my interest in art,” said Dr. Barrios-Perez. “If I show it to my boss, he just says, ‘Throw the sample away.’ I thought that it looked like a face with a fire that was warming up my days.” He added that the particular result “cannot be reproduced – some of this stuff just happens.”

4th place: James E. Hayden – Anglerfish ovary 4x magnification (Two-channel autofluorescence)

james hayden anglefish ovary 4x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

When a former colleague sent him a section of an anglerfish ovary, James E. Hayden of The Wistar Institute came up with the idea of looking at the autofluorescence of the tissue in two colors. His vibrant swirling photomicrograph of developing oocytes, or unfertilized eggs, as they move along the spiral of an anglerfish’s ovary came in fourth.

Mr. Hayden said he is drawn to both photographic art and science. “Most microscopists have a streak of artist in them. It’s hard not to. You’re looking at things through a microscope that most people don’t see. The nascent artist in you sort of peeks its head up.”

5th place: Bruno Vellutini – Oral surface of a young seastar 40x magnification

bruno vellutini oral surface of a young seastar 40x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

A young, hungry sea star appears to open its mouth wide as its transparent tube feet grasp for morsels. Marine biologist Bruno Vellutini of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil said the sea star, or starfish, was imaged at 40 times magnification shortly after it had metamorphosed into a juvenile. He said he was lucky to find the juvenile seastar in the plankton samples he collected while looking for sand dollar larvae for his master’s thesis last year.

“Scientific images don’t need to be beautiful,” he said. “To take a good picture, you need patience to prepare light, make sure everything is clean. It takes a lot of effort to create a technically nice image.” But, he said, taking beautiful pictures “makes research more fun.”


1st place: Michael Stringer – Pleurosigma (marine diatoms) 200x magnification (Darkfield and Polarized light)

michael stringer pleurosigma marine diatoms 200x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Though Mr. Stringer is not a microscopist by trade, he has been interested in diatoms for over 60 years. When he retired from his work as an Ophthalmic Nurse Practitioner, he decided to emulate English Botanist and Diatomist Dr. C. L. Odam and collect diatoms from tributaries. Stringer now works on Two Tree Island amassing information and collecting diatoms.

This image was one of a series Mr. Stringer created to illustrate a talk to a camera club on “Photography through the microscope.” His objective was to display diatoms in a modern way using super contrast and careful application of color.

2nd place: Paul Marshall – Carbon nanotubes, post growth 30x magnification (Stereomicroscopy)

paul marshall carbon nanotubes post growth 30x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Marshall’s image was taken as part of the study of an atypical Carbon Nanotube growth run. Carbon Nanotubes are the latest material of interest and show great promise for the next generation of devices in the field of optical, medical and electronic research. He chose to submit this image to convey the hidden microscopic beauty of science and technology.

The image was created using a Nikon CoolPix E995 and a Nikon SMZ-10 Stereo Microscope. Marshall used this image as the cover of a Christmas card to his students.

3rd place: Albert Tousson – Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley) 1300x magnification (Confocal)

albert tousson convallaria majalis lily of the valley 1300x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Tousson has been involved in photomicrography for 25 years. As a cell biologist, Tousson works to understand the complex processes that allow cells to metabolize and perpetuate.

Tousson chose to submit this image showing the plant’s tissue organization because the red cell walls and green and yellow starch granules were striking. This image was acquired using laser confocal microscopy with 3D projection as part of a test of a confocal imaging system for optical sectioning and 3D rendering.

4th place: Matthew Springer – Differentiation of unicellular Dictyostelium discoideum into multicellular slugs 100x magnification (Stereomicroscopy)

matthew springer differentiation of unicellular dictyostelium discoideum into multicellular slugs 100x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Springer captured this image as part of his postdoctoral research at Stanford University. In this project, microscopy was essential to observe whether development proceeded or stopped in the absence of myosin function at different developmental stages.

Myosin, the protein that allows muscle to contract, was known to be essential for the beginning of development in certain amoebas, but its importance in subsequent stages was unknown. This work demonstrated that after development has begun, the function of cellular myosin is no longer required for any of the cell movements that occur until the very last stage, during which myosin function is once again essential.

5th place: Charles Kazilek – Japanese specialty paper fibers (Sugixawa Tenjyo) 100x magnification (Confocal)

charles kazilek japanese specialty paper fibers sugixawa tenjyo 100x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

This image, from an area that is no larger than a period at the end of a sentence, shows what eye-popping colors and structures are in sheets of paper. Kazilek, who has degrees in both science and art, captured this image as part of an ongoing project that studies historic and contemporary handmade papers.

Kazilek used scanning-laser confocal imaging to capture this image. This technique provides intense color and great detail not possible with other microscopic systems. Past microscopes could image the color or the detail of the paper, but no microscope before confocal systems could do both.


1st place: Gloria Kwon – Double transgenic mouse embryo, 18.5 days 17x magnification (Brightfield/Darkfield/Fluorescence)

gloria kwon double transgenic mouse embryo 185 days 17x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Kwon’s image is a by-product of current research for her graduate thesis. It illustrates a late-stage developing mouse embryo with the yolk sac and placenta intact. All of the structures within the embryo have red fluorescence, while the yolk sac exclusively has green fluorescence, showing the details of the body plan. Her goal was to create a clean and focused photograph where the smaller details were as clear as the bigger picture.

To capture this image, Kwon used widefield microscopy with various lighting conditions under brightfield as well as green and red fluorescent filters in darkfield.

2nd place: Michael Hendricks – Zebrafish embryo midbrain and diencephalon 20x magnification (Confocal)

michael hendricks zebrafish embryo midbrain and diencephalon 20x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Hendricks’ image was captured as part of his graduate thesis research looking at how accurate connections are made in the brain. It shows some of the anatomy of a 3 day old embryonic zebrafish brain. The blue portion of the image shows axonal connections between neurons and reveals the overall brain architecture. The red portion is a specific signaling molecule within a subset of neurons. His goal in creating this image was to show the brain structures at the finest level of detail possible.

3rd place: Wim van Egmond – Testudinella patina (a rotifer) 400x magnification (Differential interference contrast)

wim van egmond testudinella patina a rotifer 400x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Van Egmond is not a scientist, but rather a freelance artist and photographer with a deep interest in science. He captured this image as part of a series of portraits of microorganisms. It shows all the anatomical features of the Rotifer, a microscopic marine animal. His goal in capturing such images is to portray microorganisms in same way one would portray a person – by capturing the ‘personality’ of the organisms as well as their true physical appearance.

His image was made with differential interference contrast which makes transparent objects more visible but retains the ‘feel’ of transparency.

4th place: Charles Krebs – Marine diatoms attached to Polysiphonia (red algae) 100x magnification (Differential interference contrast)

charles krebs marine diatoms attached to polysiphonia red algae 100x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Krebs is a photographer specializing in nature and wildlife subjects. He chose to submit this image because of the geometric shapes and symmetry of the growing diatoms, together with the elaborate pattern and texture of the red-hued alga to which it was attached. Rather than showing a diatom as a single inanimate frustule, as is often the case, this image depicts living specimens growing attached to the highly textured Polysiphonia alga.

5th place: Peter Parks – Sea water with mixed zooplankton and needle eye 20x magnification (Reflected light)

peter parks sea water with mixed zooplankton and needle eye 20x Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]

Parks is a wildlife photographer and cameraman, specializing in capturing the very small, especially marine and freshwater microplankton. The image was captured as one of a series of pictures created to help illustrate the size of marine microplankton while on an expedition to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

This image was created using specially developed optics built by Parks to enable three dimensional filming of marine microplankton.

If you enjoyed this article, the Sifter highly recommends: ALCOHOLIC ART – LIQUOR UNDER A MICROSCOPE

english oatmeal stout under alcohol under a microscope Winners (07 10) from Nikons Small World Competition [20 pics]