If you're asking yourself what a photomicrograph is, let's answer that right away: It's a picture taken through a microscope. But while the subject matter may be extremely small, the resulting photos have an enormous presence.

Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography Competition has been running since 1975, and this year's contest received more than 2,000 entries from 88 countries. First place went to the above photo by Dr. Bram van den Broek of The Netherlands Cancer Institute, which shows a skin cell expressing an excessive amount of keratin, according to contest officials. He took the photo, which was magnified 40 times, while studying skin cancer cells and tumors.

"This year’s winners not only reflect remarkable research and trends in science, but they also allow the public to get a glimpse of a hidden world," said Eric Flem, communications manager for Nikon Instruments, said in a news release. "This year’s winning photo is an example of important work being done in the world of science, and that work can be shared thanks to rapidly advancing imaging technology."

This photo by Dr. Havi Sarfaty of the Eyecare Clinic in Yahud-Monoson, Israel, won second place and shows the seed head of Senecio vulgaris, a flowering plant.
This photo by Dr. Havi Sarfaty of the Eyecare Clinic in Yahud-Monoson, Israel, won second place and shows the seed head of Senecio vulgaris, a flowering plant. (Photo: Dr. Havi Sarfaty/Eyecare Clinic in Israel)

This year’s second place photo captures the flowering head of a plant (Senecio vulgaris). "Dr. Havi Sarfaty of Yahud-Monoson, Israel, submitted this photo because of how it represents the unseen complexity of a supposedly simple garden flower," according to contest officials.

Looks a little like Pac-Man, no?
Looks a little like Pac-Man, but it's actually living Volvox algae releasing its daughter colonies. (Photo: Jean-Marc Babalian/Nantes, France)

The third place photo (above) by Jean-Marc Bablian of Nantes, France, may look like Pac-Man, but this is no video game. "It is actually a living volvox algae releasing its daughter colonies" magnified 100 times, according to the news release.

A tapeworm
No wonder people don't like tapeworms. This photo shows Taenia solium (tapeworm) everted scolex. (Photo: Teresa Zgoda/Rochester Institute of Technology)

This microscopic view of a tapeworm took home fourth place and resembles the nightmarish creatures found living in the deep ocean. Thankfully, these tapeworms are super small, and this image was magnified 200 times.

This photo, which won sixth place, shows lily pollen magnified 63 times.
This photo, which won sixth place, shows lily pollen magnified 63 times. (Photo: Dr. David A. Johnston/University of Southampton/University Hospital Southampton, Biomedical Imaging Unit Southampton, U.K.)

This photo of lily pollen by Dr. David A. Johnson of University Hospital Southampton's Biomedical Imaging Unit took home sixth place. Nikon describes the technique that was used to create it:

Confocal imaging involves scanning the specimen to create computer-generated optical sections down to 250 nm thickness using visible light. These optical sections may be stacked to provide a 3-D digital reconstruction of the specimen.
Individually labeled axons in an embryonic chick ciliary ganglion
According to the contest, this shows 'individually labeled axons in an embryonic chick ciliary ganglion.' Got that? (Photo: Dr. Ryo Egawa/Nagoya University, Graduate School of Medicine, Japan)

Is this a tangled wad of Christmas lights? Or is it a jellyfish? Or maybe an abstract photo of a group of balloons? Nope. This photo, which took seventh place, shows individually labeled axons in an embryonic chick ciliary ganglion. Natch.

No, this is not a Christmas tree.
No, this is not a Christmas tree of some sort. It's a photo of cartilage-like tissue growing in a lab using bone stem cells (collagen fibers in green and fat deposits in red). (Photo: Catarina Moura, Dr. Sumeet Mahajan, Dr. Richard Oreffo & Dr. Rahul Tare/University of Southampton, Institute for Life Sciences Southampton, U.K.)

While this ninth place photo may make you think of Christmas trees, the contents of this image have nothing to do with evergreens and twinkly lights. What you see is cartilage-like tissue being grown in a lab using bone stem cells. The collagen fibers are in green and fat deposits in red, according to the contest.

Daddy longlegs
This Opiliones (daddy longlegs) is keeping an eye on you. (Photo: Charles B. Krebs/Issaquah, Washington)

The eye of a daddy longlegs looms large in this 12th-place photo by Charles B. Krebs of Issaquah, Washington.

Butterfly eggs on a leaf
They kind of look like baby pineapples, don't they? They're actually common butterfly (Mestra amymone) eggs, laid on a leaf of Tragia sp. (Noseburn plant). (Photo: David Millard/Austin, Texas)

David Millard of Austin, Texas won 14th place with this photo of butterfly eggs on a leaf magnified 7.5 times.

While this may look like an animated scene, it's not. It's the skin of a sea cucumber magnified 100 times.
While this may look like an animated scene, it's not. It's the skin of a sea cucumber (Synapta) magnified 100 times. (Photo: Christian Gautier/Biosphoto in Le Mans, France)

This photo, which took 18th place, shows the skin of a sea cucumber magnified 100 times. The bright colors come from a technique called polarization, which "is created by passing light through a polarizing filter. This transmits light in one direction only," according to Nikon. "The way in which materials interact with polarized light can provide information about their structure and composition."