A “selfie” of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo won the first prize at this year’s Nikon Small World competition. The photo was taken by Dr. Oscar Ruiz at the University of Texas’ Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Among the 2,000 submitted photos, there were images of a butterfly’s wing, a slice of agate from Teepee Canyon, and a cluster of neurons. The contest has the objective of astounding viewers while also serving as potential scientific contributions.

Zebrafish embryo picture. Image Credit: Nikon Small World


Almost as if the microscopic world was different from ours

Dr. Oscar Ruiz researches zebrafish to understand how facial features develop in order to assess facial deformities in humans, such as cleft palates.

Last year’s winner was Ralph Claus Grimm a high school teacher and freelance photographer, who captured an image of the eye of a honey bee covered in pollen. He used reflected light to magnify the image 120 times. He spent four hours to mount the eye for imaging, set focus increments, and illuminate the subject.

“It’s a subject of great sculptural beauty, but also a warning- that we should stay connected to our planet, listen to the little creatures like bees, and find a way to protect the earth that we all call home,” Grimm stated to Nikon.

The photos provide an interesting perspective on things that otherwise may appear common and of little interest. Butterflies were the most frequent subject, where contestants captured close-up images of their wings. The wings are actually comprised of minuscule scales of different colors and sizes, almost resembling those of a fish. David Millard, on the other hand, captured a butterfly egg, which may remind audiences of the Alien movies.

There’s also a photo of a butterfly’s proboscis, the flagellum that they have on their faces. Taken by Jochen Schroeder, the photo resembles a coiled whip that eventually hides inside a red bush. The photo even shows the little segments that make up the proboscis’ exterior, which almost looks like skin.

Image Credit: Nikon Small World

The slice of agate was given the 2nd place. The photo was taken by Douglas L. Moore from the University of Wisconsin. It is just a polished slab of agate, with a 90x augmentation, captured using stereomicroscope.

Stereomicroscopy refers to the technique where the photographer uses a stereoscopic microscope for capturing the image, which allows rendering a three-dimensional view. This provides the picture with a richer perception of depth and contrast.

Image Credit: Nikon Small World

The 3rd place was given to Rebecca Nutbrown from Oxford University, who submitted a photo of stained neurons that derive from human skin cells, alongside Schwann cells. The image shows that the Schwann cells cover the neurons in a similar way that they would cover the brain itself.

It is an intricate network of strings of different colors, which surprisingly all have a specific function within its network, all working in conjunction to respond to the stimuli perceived by our nervous system.

The full galleries are available at the Nikon Small World website.

Source: Nikon Small World