Photos Show Beauty Lurking Under the Microscope

Far from your typical photography competition, Nikon Small World reveals the hidden beauty of tiny things. The annual shortlist zooms in on the complexities of life under a powerful lens. This year’s collection includes close-up shots of a mosquito heart, a wasp nest and even soy sauce.

The rules of the game are simple: Any adult with a light microscope and a camera can send in microscopic photographs. That is the basis of the Small World Competition, a long-running event on the scientific calendar, organized by the camera-maker Nikon.

The entrants’ work often resembles science-fiction artwork more than the plants, objects or creatures lying on the microscope slide. This year’s crop of winners reveals a quirky beauty usually hidden from the naked eye.

Among the subjects under scrutiny by the winners are a wasps’ nest, cancer cells and even soy sauce, as photographed by a Chinese scientist.

Mosquito’s Heart

The top prize this year was taken by a close-up shot of a mosquito’s heart, glowing in radiant blues and greens. It was taken by Jonas King, of the biological sciences department of Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee.

For fans of microscopic photography, two Berlin-based exhibitions currently represent the artistic-scientific niche: They can be seen at the Photography Museum and the Alfred Ehrhardt Foundation until early January 2011.

Dr. John Hart of Colorado University won 20th place with this shot of crystallized, melted acetanilide and sulfur.

In 19th place comes a close-up shot of a rat retina taken by Cameron Johnson of the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

In 18th place is this shot by Gerd Guenther of Düsseldorf. The lunaresque image is in fact a film of soap, enlarged 150 times.

In 17th place: Charles Krebs from Washington focused on a wasp’s compound eye and antenna base.

In 16th place comes a pollen-coated flower stigma, taken by Dr. Robert Markus of the Hungarian Academy of Science.

In 15th place comes this geometric shot of divaricatic acid from lichen, the work of Dr. Ralf Wagner from Düsseldorf.

In 14th place is this image of spiral vessels from a banana plant stem, snapped by Dr. Stephen Lowry from the University of Ulster.

In 13th place is this close-up of live mushroom coral taken by James Nicholson of the Coral Culture and Collaborative Research Facility, South Carolina.

In 12th place: This shot was taken by Gregory Rouse from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. He photographed a juvenile bivalve mollusc using a technique which helps capture objects lacking in contrast, without using artificial dyes.

In 11th place is this shot of cancer cells taken by Dr. Paul D. Andrews of the University of Dundee in Scotland.

In 10th place is crystallized soy sauce, taken by Yanping Wang of the Beijing Planetarium.

In 9th place is Dr. Duane Harland’s close-up of a flea.

In 8th place is Honorio Cocera-La Parra’s shot of the mineral cacoxenite. He works for the University of Valencia.

In 7th place is this photo of an endothelial cell (from the interior of blood vessels), taken by Yongli Shan at the University of Texas.

In 6th place are the mosaic-like patterns hidden inside live red seaweed, as photographed by Dr. John Huisman of Murdoch University in Western Australia.

In 5th place is this shot of the seed of the bird of paradise plant, taken by Viktor Sykora from the Charles University, Prague.

In 4th place comes Riccardo Taiariol from Italy with his shot of a wasps’ nest, looking more like cobwebs.

In 3rd place is the Canadian zebra fish taken by Oliver Braubach of Dalhousie University in Canada.

In 2nd place is a magnified head of a five-day-old zebra fish, taken by Dr. Hideo Otsuna from the University of Utah Medical Center.

And the top prize went to this photo of a mosquito heart, magnified 100x, by Jonas King of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Full article and photos:,1518,725857,00.html