Nikon Small World: Art, passion, and brilliance in microscopic lens


Nikon’s International Small World competition was first held on 1975 and until now, the competition continues to flourish due to its success. This competition applauds the effort and excellence of individuals involved in micro-photography, using light microscopes and special lenses. After its early success, the science community and its organizers made the right decision to showcase and continue this magnificent event benefiting the talents and art enthusiasts of photomicrographs. The images captured for this event are from different arrays of scientific disciplines.

What is a Photomicrograph?

It is a technical image that is critically important to science and other industries. A good photomicrograph is considered as an image, whose content, color, structure and composition, is an object of beauty and is open only to quite a few levels of intellectual capacity and appreciation. A combination of artistic presentation and appreciation will create a masterpiece that will showcase the fantasy world of an microscopic organism.

What is the competition all about?

The Nikon Small World Competition is open to anyone who has a passion in the field of photography and wants to showcase their photographic masterpieces. This competition is well-known in different countries in Asia, Australia, Europe, the United States, Africa, Latin America and Canada. Nikon Small World gets their entries from their participants around the globe.

The subject matter is not restricted. The competition only has one criteria: images should be captured by a “light microscopy” and the participants can use any kinds of technique that is suitable particularly interference contrast, deconvolution, mixed techniques, phase contrast, dark field, polarized light, fluorescence and confocal. The entries submitted to Nikon are then arbitrated by an independent body of panelist that is an expert of a certain field and highly recognized by the authorities in the area of photography and photomicrography. The winning factor is based on the visual impact, originality, informational content and technical proficiency.

What is in store for the winners?

The first prize will get a decent amount of $3,000 toward the purchase of Nikon equipment. Other winners will receive one of 20 prizes that is sorted according to rank in the competition.

What to expect in a Nikon Small World Gallery?

The Nikon Small World Gallery gives you an artistic view of a world that is explored only through microscopic lens – it is an experience that you shouldn’t miss. The entries that you’ll going to see in the gallery are the winning entries from 1977 up to the present.

Tour exhibit schedules

Every year, the top 20 prize-winners are being exhibited at a various science centers and museums throughout Canada and the United States. Most of the winning images are also being featured on the covers of respected industrial and scientific journals.

More than 2,000 entries from different photographers in 83 countries vie for this year’s title. Nikon said “To select the winners, competition judges analyzed entries from all over the world covering subjects ranging from chemical compounds to up-close-and-personal looks at biological specimens.”

Here are the top 10 photos to captivate Nikon’s Small World 2015 competition:

10. The live clam shrimp

The live clam shrimp

A photo of live clam shrimp captured by Ian Gardiner from Calgary, Alberta in Canada shows the wonders of life absent on the human’s naked eye.

9. Young buds of a flowering plant

Young buds of a flowering plant

Dr. Nathanael Prunet of California Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College, Department of Biology made this captivating shot of the young buds of a flowering plant, Arabidopsis. The photo was taken under a magnification of 40x.

8. The ear of a mouse

The ear of a mouse

Confocal microscopy was used by Tomoko Yamazaki of National Institutes of Health to make this leaf-like image of a mouse’s nerves and blood vessels in its ears. The image was taken in a magnification of 10x.

7. Starfish


Evan Darling of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York was able to unleash the inner beauty of an ordinary starfish after taking this snap under 10x magnification using the technique of confocal microscopy.

6. A moss’ spore capsule

A moss’ spore capsule

Though this microscopic shot of a moss’ spore capsule might remind us of giant sandworms from sci-fi writer Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, Henri Koskinen of Helsinki, Finland assured us that this organism is completely harmless especially since he’s able to snap a photo of it in its full glory.

5. The brain of a mouse

The brain of a mouse

An expertise in neurology seems to be needed for this photo as Dr. Rakesh K. Jain and Dr. Giorgo Seano took a snap of this live imaging of perfused vasculature of a mouse’s brain with glioblastoma. This wonderful image was taken at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Edwin L. Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology in Boston.

4. A lab-grown human mammary organ

A lab-grown human mammary organ

Daniel H. Miller and Ethan S. Sokol were photographed a lab-grown human mammary gland organoid, which is their main research subject. The image was taken at their workplace, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Growing organs is one of the next envisioned breakthroughs of humanity.

3. The humped bladderwort – a carnivore plant

The humped bladderwort

Dr. Igor Siwanowicz showed the entrance of a carnivorous plant called humped bladderwort in 100x magnification. Nikon said that “The bladderwort’s trap is one of the most, if not the most, sophisticated plant organs in existence.” The freshwater plant was photographed at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Research Campus, Leonardo Lab in Ashburn, Virginia.

2. The colon of a mouse

The colon of a mouse

A photograph of a mouse colon took the second best spot in this year’s competition. KC Huang, Kristen Earle, Justin Sonnenburg and Gabriel Billings took a picture of a mouse colon which was occupied by human bacteria, under a 63x magnification using a polarized light.

1. The eye of a bee

The eye of a bee

Ralph Claus Grimm took home the crown as his close-up photo of a bee’s eye covered in dandelion pollen grains, which in term really captured the judges’ eyes. Ralph made the photo under 120x magnification using reflected light. The photo seemed to be destined for the title as Nikon said that “The aim of this image is to communicate to the viewer through the eye of a bee how intricate and beautiful nature is and that we are living in a super-busy high-tech world where an increasing number of people are losing their human identity in a steady decline of art as an important part of our society.”

Nikon’s Small World proves that our planet has so much to offer, even though we are not able to see it with just one look. What do you think?


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