1st place. The trichomes and stomata on the underside of a southern oak leaf, captured through a 60x objective lens. Jason Kirk, Baylor School of Medicine/Nikon's Small World Photomicrography Contest
Here at Popular Science, we love miniaturism—so much that we devoted a whole magazine issue to it (see Fall 2018, “Tiny”). Which is why we live for photos that show the wonders of the world not-at-scale.
Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography Competition is the perfect opportunity for that. The awards uniquely feature images taken through light microscopes, from a range of scientific fields, including cancer research, plant evolution, and crystallography. The specimens themselves are often stained, fluoresced, and treated with other methods to tease out their visual features. Which leaves us with an eyeful of sharp contrasts and tiny details that we otherwise would be oblivious to with our zoomed-out human vantages.
The overall winner of this year’s contest (above) was composed of 200 separate photos, taken with a custom microscope made by optical imaging expert Jason Kirk. The technique was used by many of the other finalists, but with varying subjects, light sources, and color edits. The resulting lineup is diverse and stunning, and we’re excited to share some of the most memorable selects.