Photographs are special in their ability to capture and preserve a single moment. But the winners of the 2014 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition take the power of photography and videography one step further: they capture moments hidden to the human eye, seen only through the magnifying lens of a microscope. The footage of a fruit fly developing, for instance, or neurons firing in a zebrafish's brain is a captivating blend of art and science, combining scientific curiosity with an artistic aesthetic.
Now in its 11th year, the BioScapes competition attracts nearly 2,500 images from researchers and scientists working in 70 countries around the world. Images and movies depicting any life science subject, taken through any sort of microscope, are eligible. An international panel of four judges evaluates each image based on its aesthetic value, the science it depicts and the technical skills it required. In 2014, the judges awarded ten images highest honors and named 62 honorable mentions. Winners hail from 14 U.S. states and 21 countries; nine of these entries are videos.
"For 11 years, Olympus has sponsored this competition to shed light on the importance of research and draw attention to the amazing intersection of science and art," said Hidenao Tsuchiya, Chairman of Olympus Scientific Solutions Americas, part of Olympus Corporation, in a press statement. "Olympus BioScapes movies and images have spurred public interest in and support of microscopy, drawn attention to the vital work that goes on in laboratories worldwide, and inspired young people to seek careers in science."
This year's first place winner is a short video that shows a Drosophila embryo emerge from trembling cells. It's one of the first times that scientists have been able to capture on film the transformation of individual cells immediately after fertilization.
The 10th place winner, another video, depicts single-neuron activity in a vertebrate's brain for the first time.