As every year around these dates the winners of the contest are announced Nikon Small World, contest sponsored by the instruments division of the well-known brand and that rewards, 47 years ago, the best microscopic photography images. A complex discipline whose images are always amazing, because they show things that the eye is unable to see and they discover us a fascinating world.

The first prize this year was for the photo that you have seen on the cover, taken by Jason kirk, and showing the trichomes (the white appendages), stomata (the purple pores) and vessels (the cyan-colored areas) of a southern live oak leaf (an evergreen tree native to the southern US). The image was made with a custom made microscope by this scientist during the pandemic in order to practice photomicrography in his own home.


‘Hibiscus flower anther’ by Guillermo López López. Distinguished photo at Nikon Small World 2021

Jason, who runs the Optical Imaging & Vital Microscopy Core from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, tells how he has “He learned a lot from the scientific community, having spent over 20 years in this field doing microscopy at a fairly high level. But I have also learned a lot from the people around the fans. Small World is a great combination of these two areas, and it is something that is not usually seen regularly.“.

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About the shot, the author highlights that the most complicated was the lighting: “Microscope objectives are small and have a very shallow depth of focus. You couldn’t just put a giant light next to the microscope and make the lighting directional. It would be like trying to illuminate the head of a pin with a light source the size of your head. Almost impossible“.

This is why Jason used reflected and diffused light on both sides of the blade, made around 200 shots individual sheets and stacked them to create a stunning image, also correcting temperature and color tone in post-production.

The jury, which says it is amazed every year by the level of talent that is presented to the contest, highlights that the winning photo is “a masterful example of the dynamic relationship between imaging technology and artistic creativity“And it is precisely this contest“was created to show the world how art and science come together under the microscope and this year’s first place winner couldn’t be a better example of that combination.“.

Ricardo Martinez 2019 09 04

‘Small female Polychaete worm with brood pouch and male worm (larger specimen) (Myrianida prolifera)’ by Ricardo Roberto Fernández Martínez. Distinguished photo at Nikon Small World 2021

Of course, this was not the only photo chosen; in fact a total of 100 images divided, like last year, between a TOP 20 of featured photos, 14 honorable mentions and 66 distinguished images (among which there are some made by Spaniards).

We leave you with the images of the TOP 20 and, this time more than ever, we recommend a visit to the web to see other winning images.

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1 Nikon Small World 2021 TOP 20:

Nikon Small World 2021 TOP 20:

First place: ‘Trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf’ by Dr. Jason Kirk

Nikon Small World

Second place: ‘A microfluidic device containing 300k networking neurons in 2 isolated populations. Both sides were treated with a unique virus and bridged by axons’ by Esmeralda Paric

Nikon Small World

Third place: ‘Rear leg, claw, and respiratory trachea of ​​a louse (Haematopinus suis)’ by Frank Reiser

Nikon Small World

Position 4: ‘Sensory neuron from an embryonic rat’ by Paula Diaz

Nikon Small World

Position 5: ‘Proboscis of a housefly (Musca domestica)’ by Oliver Dum

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Position 6: ‘3D vasculature of an adult mouse brain (somatosensory cortex)’ by Dr. Andrea Tedeschi

Nikon Small World

Position 7: ‘Head of a tick’ by Dr. Tong Zhang

Nikon Small World

Position 8: ‘Cross section of mouse intestine’ by Dr. Amy Engevik

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Position 9: ‘Water flea (Daphnia), carrying embryos and peritrichs’ by Jan van IJken

Nikon Small World

Position 10: ‘Vein and scales on a butterfly wing (Morpho didius)’ by Sébastien Malo

Nikon Small World

Position 11: ‘Vasculature of a mouse retina’ by Jason Kirk

Nikon Small World

Position 12: ‘Breast organoid showing contractile myoepithelial cells (blue) crawling on secretory breast cells (red)’ by Jakub Sumbal

Nikon Small World

Position 13: ‘Cotton fabric with pollen grains’ by Dr. Felice Placenti

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Position 14: ‘Snowflake’ by Dr. Joern N. Hopke

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Position 15: ‘Diatom (Arachnoidiscus)’ by Bernard Allard

Nikon Small World

Position 16: ‘An in vivo snapshot of the neurons surrounding the mouth and tentacles of a juvenile starlet sea anemone (Nematostella vectensis)’ by Ruohan Zhong

Nikon Small World

Position 17: ‘Filamentous strands of Nostoc cyanobacteria captured inside a gelatinous matrix’ by Martin Kaae Kristiansen

Nikon Small World

Position 18: ‘Table salt crystal’ by Saulius Gugis

Nikon Small World

Position 19: ‘Calcite crystal inclusion suspended in a spinel gemstone’ by Billie Hughes

Nikon Small World

Position 20: ‘Slime mold (Arcyria pomiformis)’ by Alison Pollack

Nikon Small World

More information and photos | Nikon Small World 2021

Cover photo | ‘Trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf’ by Dr. Jason Kirk. Nikon Small World 2021 Winner