Up Close With The 2012 Olympus Bioscapes Microscopic Photography Challenge

The year's best microscope-assisted science photo wasn't actually a photograph at all, but a video.

Perhaps it's a sign of just how far imaging technology has come in the last decade that the overall winner of the Olympus Bioscapes Digital Imaging competition--an annual microscopic photography contest now in its tenth year--wasn't a still photograph but a video. Amid a range of stunning visuals captured via dozens of imaging and microscopy techniques, Ralph Grimm's video of colonial rotifers--micrscopic beings that sustain themselves on dead bacteria and the like--took top prize, the first time a video has done so.

More to that point, this Grimm is neither a professional videographer nor a research scientist with access to a lab full of top-shelf imaging equipment. Rather, he's a 45-year-old Australian high school teacher who simply realized that the lilypads in his pond are a lot more interesting at 200X magnification. The fact that year after year the scientifically curious among us increasingly have more and better technologies within reasonable reach bodes well for competitions like Nikon's Small World imaging competition and Olympus' Bioscapes contest.

If you don't believe that, just click through the gallery link above or view Grimm's award-winning video below. We think you'll come around to our way of viewing the world.

First Place, Rotifers on Lillypad

A still image from the much-more-interesting video.Ralph Grimm

Second Place, Red Algae

Red algae Scagelia.Dr. Arlene Wechezak

Third Place, East-Coast U.S. Fern

A cluster of spore-filled sporangia.Dr. Igor Siwanowicz

Fourth Place, Crab Claw

Claw of a crustacean amphipode.Dr. Christian Sardet and Mr. Sharif Mirshak

Fifth Place, Green Algae

Twenty-two stacked images of unicellular green algae.Mr. Rogelio Moreno Gill

Sixth Place, Mushroom Coral

Live mushroom coral.Mr. James Nicholson

Seventh Place, A Fruit Fly's Larval Brain

Dr. Christian Klämbt and Dr. Imke Schmidt

Eight Place, Stamens And Filaments

Henbit (that's a wildflower) stamens, anthers, and filaments.Mr. Edwin Lee

Ninth Place, Seed

Seed of Delphinium.Mrs. Sahar Khodaverdi

Tenth Place, Butterfly Wing Scales

From the "Prola Beauty" (Panacea prola).Mr. Charles Krebs