Nikon announces winners in annual Small World photomicrography competition


posted Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 12:43 PM EDT


Nikon's Small World competition isn't your traditional sort of photography contest — and even though it's all about extreme magnification and natural objects, it's not a macro or nature competition either. Instead, it's a photomicrography contest, showing off the beauty of objects seen through the lens of a microscope — and Nikon has just announced the winners for 2013.

The first place prize has gone to Wim van Egmond of the Micropolitan Museum in Rotterdam. It's a picture of Chaetoceros debilis (a marine diatom) taken by using Differential Interference Contrast to show its transparent structure, alongside the more traditional method of focus stacking. This plankton is shown at 250x its normal size, and the image clearly shows its 3D helix structure. Here's how Nikon describes his technique for grabbing the winning shot:

In order to showcase the various dimensions of the organism, van Egmond employed an image stacking technique. Combining many images, van Egmond used differential interference contrast, to obtain a dark blue background that provides a stunning contrast with the yellow and brown shades of the diatom. It’s a complicated technique, that when combined with van Egmond’s artistic eye, made him the clear winner of the 2013 competition.

According to Nikon, it took the freelance photographer stacking more than 90 images to create the final composite. As a main prize, van Egmond gets $3,000 towards the purchase of Nikon gear.

Alongside the winning image, Nikon has also announced the top 20 photomicrographs, including images of a turtle retina, an excited neuron, and a chameleon embryo. There are also 13 honorable mentions and 83 images of distinction. All told, that's more than 100 incredible images of the tiniest parts of nature shown at huge size, and they're all absolutely stunning.

If you have any interest in what goes on in the world around us that's too small for the naked eye to see, you owe it to yourself to have a look at the winning gallery.

Chaetoceros debilis (marine diatom) by Wim van Egmond