Nikon Small World 2021 winners highlighted by mesmerizing photo of an oak leaf that looks alien
posted Wednesday, September 15, 2021 at 2:30 PM EDT
There are many excellent photo contests each year, but one I especially look forward to is the Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition. The Nikon Small World contest attracts many fantastic images from talented photographers around the world. While the images may look very different from one another, they all share something in common. Each photo offers an incredible, close-up look at different objects. This year's competition, the 47th edition, included more than 1,900 entries from 88 countries.
This year's winning image is a 60x magnification close-up of a southern live oak leaf by photographer Jason Kirk. Nikon writes, 'Jason won for his striking image of a southern live oak leaf's trichomes, stomata and vessels. Using various lighting techniques and design tools, Jason's final image is a masterful example of the dynamic relationship between imaging technology and artistic creativity. Using a custom-made microscope system that combines color filtered transmitted light with diffused reflected light, Jason captured around 200 individual images of the leaf and stacked them together to create the stunning image.'
In the image above, which has been color-adjusted during post-processing to illustrate the elements in the photo, the white portions are trichomes, 'which are fine outgrowths that protect a plant against extreme weather and insects.' In purple, Kirk has highlighted stomata, which are pores that control gas flow in a plant. The cyan objects are water transport vessels.
' The lighting side of it was complicated,' said Jason. 'Microscope objectives are small and have a very shallow depth of focus. I couldn't just stick a giant light next to the microscope and have the lighting be directional. It would be like trying to light the head of a pin with a light source that's the size of your head.' Kirk has been doing microscopy since the 1990s. He now works as the core director for Baylor College of Medicine's Optical Imaging and Vital Microscopy Core.
You can view the top 20 images from this year's Nikon Small World competition. You can also check out Honorable Mentions and Images of Distinction. This year's contest was judged by Dr. Nsikan Akpam, Hank Green, Robin Kazmier, Dr. Alexa Mattheyses and Dr. Hesper Rego. We have selected a few images to highlight below, although you should check all the images out on the competition website.