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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The eye of a daddy longlegs looms large in this 12th-place photo by Charles B. Krebs of Issaquah, Washington.
David Millard of Austin, Texas won 14th place with this photo of butterfly eggs on a leaf magnified 7.5 times.
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."