See at a Bee’s Eye Level With 9 Award-Winning Microscopic Photos

The winners of Nikon’s annual photomicrography competition have an eye for detail

2nd Place: A mouse colon hosts a colony of bacteria from humans (in red) which are separated from the colon tissue (blue) by a layer of mucus (green). The bacteria belong to a bunch of different phyla including Firmicutes (yellow) and Bacteroidetes (fushia). Kristen Earle, Gabriel Billings, K.C. Huang and Justin Sonnenburg, Stanford University School of Medicine
10th Place: This composite image of a live clam shrimp (Cyzicus mexicanus) was magnified 25 times and taken using a technique called darkfield illumination. Ian Gardiner
Honorable mention: A 10.5 day old mouse embryo magnified 11 times with a confocal microscope. Jace Artichoker, Rochester Institute of Technology
4th Place: Human mammary tissue grown into a mini organ-like structure called an organiod, magnified 100 times. Organiods help researchers understand how cells and tissue function. Daniel H. Miller and Ethan S. Sokol, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
11th Place: This composite image captures the sorus—a cluster of structures that contain and produce spores—of a fern. The spores are in varying maturity levels, magnified 20 times and highlighted using florescent light. Rogelio Moreno Gill
20th Place: The suction cups on the front leg of a diving beetle (Dytiscus species) magnified 50 times. Frank Reiser, Nassau Community College
5th Place: A high-tech technique called Optical Frequency Domain Imaging "sees" through tissues to capture this image of blood vessels in a mouse brain with a glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor. Giorgio Seano and Rakesh J. Jain, Harvard Medical School
3rd Place: The carnivorous freshwater plant called a humped bladderwort uses this intake to vacuum up prey, such as insects and tadpoles. Here the critter is magnified 100 times. Igor Siwanowicz, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Ralph Grimm captured this image of a honey bee’s eye dusted with pollen from a dandelion, magnified 120 times. He was the 1st prize winner of the 2015 Nikon Small World competition.

Good photography shows the world in new and striking ways. Photos are usually captured with a variety of cameras and lenses, but the contestants in Nikon’s annual Small World competition another tool: Microscopes. 

When photography crosses microscopy, you get photomicrography. Scientists capture many of these images on a regular basis for research, examining the tiny details of cells, insects, brain structures, plants, starfish and more. But to win this competition, photographers need more than scientific merit, they have to show off some artistic chops.

More than 2,000 entries from over 83 countries entered this year’s competition. Judges included both science editors and researchers.

Ralph Grimm of Australia—beekeeper, high school teacher and self-taught micrographer—took first place this year for his close-up view of a bee’s eye, flecked with pollen grains, at a magnification of 120 timesFour hours of careful setup were required for this shot, reports Hanae Armitage for ScienceGrimm mounted the bee's eye, set the focus, positioned the lights and finally took multiple images to compile into the finished picture.

Grimm explains in press release how he hopes his work can help bring awareness to the plight of bees around the world, which are struggling because of a myriad of reasons.

"In a way I feel as though this gives us a glimpse of the world through the eye of a bee,” says Grimm. “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."