1 of 20 Jason Kirk, Baylor College of Medicine / Nikon Small World
Fancy oak leaf
Bet you did not know that an oak tree could hang out in your backyard could be so nice. Jason Kirk, who won first place in Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography competition, used a bespoke microscope to represent a southern oak stomata and tub in deep violet and cyan. Scroll through the gallery for more notable photos
2 of 20 Esmeralda Paric and Holly Stefan, Macquarie University / Nikon Small World
Game of Thrones should have looked like this
Are there others who want Game of Thrones’ lighting department to make the Battle of Winterfell look like these neurons?
The amazing elsewhere photo of Esmeralda Paric and Holly Stefan is a microfluidic device containing 300,000 network neurons or brain cells. The bridge over delicate lines, axons that help neurons transmit electrical signals, contrasts the pulsating tones of each side strongly over a black ink-like liquid.
3 of 20 Frank Reiser, Nassau Community College / Nikon Small World
See. On. To. Claw. Frank Reiser only magnified this parasitic insect, a lice, five times to make his magical-looking weapon so large, and that fact is worrying to say the least.
4 of 20 Paula Diaz, Pontificia Catholic University of Chile / Nikon Small World
Yes, there are creatures that look like this under the sea, but this is Paula Diaz’s depiction of a mouse’s sensory neuron. She used fluorescence to get this cell ready for a glow stick party. The picture took fourth place.
5 of 20 Oliver Dum, Media Bunker Production / Nikon Small World
Just your average housefly
Welcome to your new nightmare. Here we have a housefly that Stranger Things’ spooky monster was definitely based on. Photographer Oliver Dum caught the enlarged proboscis — the long nose-like thing flying a kind of liquid with — of a fly that probably lives somewhere in your house.
6 of 20 Andrea Tedeschi, Ohio State University / Nikon Small World
Confused forest of vessels
Cobwebs or winter wonderland? Andrea Tedeschi offers a new perspective of an adult mouse brain’s 3D vasculature in her image in sixth place. These snow-covered branches could pass as a stop on the path to the North Pole or the aftermath of Spider-Man experimenting with his powers.
7 of 20 Tong Zhang and Paul Stoodley, Ohio State University / Nikon Small World
Beautiful, yet deadly cross
Cobalt blue bacteria? The star’s supernova? Nix. Tong Zhang and Paul Stoodley present the head of a tick, an annoying little insect that similarly terrorizes puppies and humans.
8 of 20 Amy Engevik, Medical University of South Carolina / Nikon Small World
Magical eye gut
Have you ever had one of those books where you can focus your eyes to reveal a 3D image? Sorry, you will not find a solution for this photo. Amy Engevik won for her eighth-placed image of a mouse gut. I’m starting to think that mice really are the star of the show here.
9 of 20 Jan van IJken / Nikon Small World
What a cute flea
The fourth, dusty rosewater flea caught by the winner in ninth place Jan van IJken carries embryos and peritrichs, a type of protozoa. Its pointed hands make it look like a swim forward, and let’s be honest, this would turn a murderous graphic into an indie album cover.
10 of 20 Sébastien Malo / Nikon Small World
Tinkerbell’s Butterfly Quarter
OK, wow. Sébastien Malo’s remarkable winning photo of a butterfly wing makes me believe that there are fairies. The darker vein surrounded by translucent, yellow, feathered scales looks stunning in a Pixar animation.
11 of 20 Jason Kirk and Carlos P. Flores Suarez, Baylor College of Medicine / Nikon Small World
The mucous membrane or inside a black hole?
I’m pretty sure if I did not tell you that this was a high-resolution magnification of the mouse’s retina, you would think it was a Radiohead album.
The longer you stare at this 11th place photo of Jason Kirk and Carlos P. Flores Suarez, the more movement you begin to feel. The curvature of the reddish edges even resembles the event horizon of a black hole.
12 of 20 Jakub Sumbal, Masaryk University / Nikon Small World
Do you remember SpongeBob’s friend bubble buddy? This funny and blobby thing is actually a breast organoid. The blue parts are myoepithelial cells that “crawl” on the reddish-brown breast cells. The striking black background in Jakub Sumbla’s photography really emphasizes the shape of the organoid and highlights the few powdery cells that fall away from the cluster. Also check the buzzing cyan hole towards the bottom.
13 of 20 Felice Placenti, FP Nature and Landscape Photography / Nikon Small World
Your T-shirt looks like this
Felice Placenti reintroduces cotton with this 10x enlarged photo of the fabric. The dreamlike gradient, flowing from soft orange to pearly white, seems to emphasize the light source Placenti used. The yellow balls, believe it or not, are pollen.
14 of 20 Joern N. Hopke / Nikon Small World
What Christmas decorations strive to be
Joern N. Hopke captures crystal clear symmetry, thanks to mother nature, in this winning photo. It’s hard to believe that every snowflake that falls from the sky is as beautiful as this one.
15 of 20 Bernard Allard, Club Francais de Microscopie / Nikon Small World
Da Vinci would have liked this algae
Bernard Allard’s photograph of a diatoms, single-celled algae belongs with the detailed sketches in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Its fractal-like pattern resembles some of Da Vinci’s works, and I can not help but compare the central lines with chromosomes lined up during mitosis.
16 of 20 Ruohan Zhong, Stowers Institute for Medical Research / Nikon Small World
Some astronauts who lived on the International Space Station have related lightning during thunderstorms to neurons in the brain. They say each bolt looks connected as it elicits multiple strikes across the globe. Ruohan Zhong’s photograph of the neurons around the mouth and tentacles from a sea anemone illustrate that thought perfectly.
17 of 20 Martin Kaae Kristiansen, My Microscopic World / Nikon Small World
COVID’s friendly cousin
Coronavirus can be an evil twin. This image of Martin Kaae Kristiansen is very similar to a Jackson Pollock, with its marine ripples of cyanobacteria on a greenish pink gelatinous matrix.
18 of 20 Saulius Gugis / Nikon Small World
Literally just salt
Even salt can be breathtaking. Saulius Gugis magnified our tasty, tiny stones 10 times to reveal this calcareous, living and labyrinthine image of a salt crystal. Since orange and blue are complementary colors, the striking contrast in this image is spectacular.
19 of 20 Billie Hughes, Lotus Gemology / Nikon Small World
Calcite crystals may give diamonds a run for their money. Billie Hughes’ lavender-colored photo of the crystal suspended in a gemstone may inspire next year’s Cartier showcase. The glittering light on the left side highlights the stripes of the crystal so wonderfully.
20 of 20 Alison Pollack / Nikon Small World
Slime mold trees
Trees of this shape scattered the world of Willy Wonka. But unlike his candy cane branches, this one is certainly not edible – Alison Pollack portrays artistic slime form in this image that took 20th place. Who knew that mucus has an iridescent layer?