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LifestyleMicroscopic pictures that won at the Nikon Small World competition

Microscopic pictures that won at the Nikon Small World competition

Published: 15th Sep 2021 2:12 pm

From the smallest creatures to the biggest ones, the microscopic view is way intriguing and different from what is seen with the naked eye. Having realised this, Jason Kirk, director of a microscope-imaging facility at Baylor College of Medicine, started to tinker with microscopes and used them to photograph several things from his backyard. 

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Having chosen a Southern live Oak tree, Kirk illuminated the leaf’s small-scale structures with a customised microscope. He then captured about 200 images and stacked them on top of each other to create this vibrant portrait. Have a look: 

The result shows the leaf’s trichomes – little outgrowths that protect the plant – in white. Pores that help the plant regulate gas flows, called stomata, appear in purple. Vessels that carry water through the leaf pop out in blue-green, according to ‘Business Insider’. 

That technical handiwork led Kirk to win first place in this year’s Nikon Small World competition – a contest launched in 1974 by the camera company – to recognise the achievements in microscope photography, also known as microscopy. The Nikon Small World competition was created to show the world how art and science come together under the microscope. 

For the 2021 competition, Nikon received nearly 1,900 entries from 88 countries. A panel of judges selected 20 winners and recognised 80 other images for distinction or honourable mention. Here are some of the pictures that made it big at the competition: 

A microfluidic device 

A microfluidic device containing 300k networking neurons in two isolated populations! Both sides were treated with a unique virus and bridged by axons. The picture won second place in the competition. 

Photograph: Esmeralda Paric and Holly Stefen/ Dementia Research Centre, Macquarie University 

A louse 

The rear leg, claw and respiratory trachea of a louse (Haematopinus suis). 

Photograph: Frank Reiser/ Nassau Community College 

The head of a tick 

A microscopic view of the head of a tick reveals some hidden colours. 

Photograph: Dr Tong Zhang and Dr Paul Stoodley/ The Ohio State University 

Tiny insect 

An amber series project displays tiny insects no more than 3mm long that have been encapsulated with hardened tree sap for 45 million years. 

Photograph: Levon Bliss Photography Ltd. 

Butterfly wing 

Vein and scales on a butterfly wing (Morpho didius). 

Photograph: Sebastien Malo 

Cotton fabric with pollen grains 

The microscopic picture captures how the fibres weave together. The yellow circles are a few stray grains of pollen that got caught. 

Photograph: Felice Placenti 

A midge 

A midge (Chironomidae diptera) photographed by a customised microscope. 

Photograph: Dr Erick Francisco Mesen 

A Housefly 

The proboscis of a housefly (Musca domestica). 

Photograph: Oliver Dum 

Hatched brine shrimp eggs 

Two hatched brine shrimp eggs after the babies had hatched (darkfield, fluorescence, image stacking). 

Photograph: Waldo Nell 

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