The Nikon Small World photomicrography competition awards the most amazing microscopic photos of the year–and we are amazed every year. This year’s winners feature a selection of insects, sand, and mouse nerves, all photographed from a disarmingly close distance.

Click to launch a tour of the amazing microphotographic winners.

Green Lacewing Larva

1st Place Dr. Igor Siwanowicz, of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany, took this photo, a portrait of a Chrysopa sp. (green lacewing) larva at 20x magnification with a confocal lens.

Blade of Grass

2nd place Dr. Donna Stolz, of the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, took this photo of a blade of grass at 200X using confocal stack reconstruction, autofluorescence.

Melosira moniliformis

3rd Place Frank Fox, of Fachhochschule Triera۬ in Trier, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, took this photo of a Melosira moniliformis, living specimen at 320X using a a۬Differential Interference Contrast.


4th Place Dr. Robin Young of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada shot this photo of intrinsic fluorescence in Lepidozia reptans (liverwort) in 20X. It was a live mount, using confocal microscopy.

Microchip Surface

** Alfred Pasieka of Germany shot this image of a 3d reconstruction of a microchip surface in 500X, using incident light and the Nomarski Interference Contrast**

Solar Cell Films

6th Place Dennis Callahan, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, shot these cracked gallium arsenide solar cell films in 50X using bright field microscopy.

Mouse Nerve Fiber

7th Place Gabriel Luna of UC Santa Barbara’s Neuroscience Research Institute in Santa Barbara, California created this image of a retinal flatmount of a mouse nerve fiber layer at 40X using laser confocal scanning.

Graphite-bearing Granulite

8th Place Dr. Bernardo Cesare, of the Department of Geosciencesa۬ in Padova, Italy, took this shot of a۬graphite-bearing granulite from Kerala (India) at 2.5X magnification using polarized light.

Marine Copepod

9th Place Dr. Jan Michels of Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel in Kiel, Germany shot this photo of a Temora longicornis (marine copepod) at 10X using confocal, autofluorescence and congo red fluorenscence.

Freshwater Water Flea

10th Place Joan R̦hl of the Institute for Biochemistry and Biologya۬ in Potsdam, German took this shot of Daphnia magna (freshwater water flea) at 100X magnification using differential interference contrast.

Ant Head

11th Place Dr. Jan Michels of Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel in Kiel, Germany shot this photo at 10X of an ant head using confocal and autofluorescence.

HeLa Cells

12th Place Thomas Deerinck, of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research in a۬La Jolla, California, USAa۬, took this shot of HeLa (cancer) cells at 300X magnification using 2-Photon fluorescence.

Curare Vine

13th Place Dr. Stephen S. Nagy of Montana Diatoms in Helena, Montana shot this photo of a curare vine, Chondrodendron tomentosum, at 45X using digitally inverted bright field microscopy.


14th Place Yanping Wang, of the Beijing Planetarium in Beijing, China, took this surprisingly gorgeous shot of, yes, sand at 4X magnification, using reflected light.

Lobe Coral

15th Place James H. Nicholson of the Coral Culture and Collaborative Research Facility, NOAA/NOS/NCCOS/CCEHBR and HML of Charleston, South Carolina shot this photo of a live specimen Porites lobata (lobe coral) tissue at 12X using epiflourescence with triple band (U/B/G) excitation.

Cultured Cells

16th Place Dr. Christopher GuÃ(C)rin, of VIB (Flanders Institute of Biotechnology) in Ghent, Belgiuma€¨, shot these cultured cells growing on a bio-polymer scaffold at 63X magnification using confocal techniques.

Filaria Worms

17th Place Dr. Witold Kilarski of EPFL-Laboratory of Lymphatic and Cancer Bioengineering in Lausanne, Switzerland shot this photo of Litomosoides sigmodontis (filaria worms) inside lymphatic vessels of a mouse ear at 150X with fluorescent confocal microscopy.

Quaking Aspen Leaf

18th Place Benjamin Blonder and David Elliott of the University of Arizonaa۬ in Tucson, Arizona, USAa۬ took this shot of the venation network of young Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen) leaf at 4X magnification, using a brightfield image of safranin-stained tissue.

Mammalian Cell Collage

19th Place Dr. Donna Stolz of the University of Pittsburgha۬ in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA won with this shot of mammalian cell collage stained for various proteins and organelles, assembled into a wreath, at 200-2000X magnification, using a single slice confocal cell mosaic.

Dinosaur Bone Cells

20th Place Douglass Moore of University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA took this amazing shot of agatized dinosaur bone cells, unpolished, ca. 150 million years old, at 42X magnification using stereomicroscopy.