Award-Winning Photos Capture The Surreal Beauty Of The Microscopic World.


1st Place winner

The 2016 Nikon Small World Photography winners have been announced and there is no shortage of spectacular pictures for you to see. The top prize went to Dr. Oscar Ruiz for the photo he submitted of four-day-old zebrafish.

The contest features submissions from entrants all across the globe. They are given the task of showing the technical skill and beauty that can be found only in the smallest parts of our vast world. Entrees had to be taken with microphotography and as you will see there were some really beautiful submissions.

Below you will find the top twenty photographs as voted on by the judges. You can only wonder how some of these shots were taken. Some of what you are about to see will blow your mind. So get comfortable because you can’t look at some of these just once!

Dr. Oscar Ruiz submitted the winning photograph of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo.

Dr. Oscar Ruiz

2nd Place finisher

Douglas L. Moore of the University of Wisconsin entered this picture of a polished slab of Teepee Canyon agate.

Douglas L. Moore

3rd Place finisher

Rebecca Nutbrown of the University of Oxford submitted this photograph of a culture of neurons that are stained green derived from actual human skin cells. It also captured Schwann cells, which is a second type of brain cell. You can see them in the stained red. The picture finished in third place.

Rebecca Nutbrown

A butterfly

Jochen Schroeder of Thailand submitted this picture of a butterfly proboscis. It came in 4th place.

Jochen Schroeder

The front foot of a male diving beetle

The 5th place photo was submitted by Dr. Igor Siwanowicz of the Howard Hughes Medical institute in Virginia.

Dr. Igor Siwanowicz

These are air bubbles

Marek Mis from Poland entered the 6th place finisher with a photo of air bubbles that were formed out of melted ascorbic acid crystals.

Marek Miś

Primordial brain cells

The photo that finished in 19th place was a collaborative effort sent in by Dr. Gist F. Croft, Lauren Pietilla, Stephanie Tse, Dr. Szilvia Galgoczi, Maria Fenner and Dr. Ali H. Brivanlou. They are from Rockefeller University in New York. The photo is of human neural rosette primordial brain cells, that are differentiated from embryonic stem cells.

Dr. Gist F. Croft et al

Leaves of Selaginella

Dr. David Maitland's photo of leaves of a Selaginella (lesser club moss) finished the voting in 7th place.

Dr. David Maitland

Wildflower stamens

The 8th place photo was submitted by Samuel Silberman from Israel. It's a beautiful picture of wildflower stamens at 40x.

Samuel Silberman

Espresso coffee crystals

Vin Kitayama and Sanae Kitayama combined for the 9th place photograph of espresso coffee crystals. I'll bet you have never seen them looking like this before!

Vin Kitayama & Sanae Kitayama


Panama's Rogelio Moreno Gill sent in the 10th place finishing photograph with his shot of Frontonia. It shows ingested food, cilia, mouth and trichocysts shot at 200x.

Rogelio Moreno Gill

Scales of a butterfly wing

Francis Sneyers of Belgium sent in the 11th place finisher with his awesome shot of the underside of a butterfly wing.

Francis Sneyers

Human HeLa cell

Dr. Dylan Burnette, from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, submitted this photograph of a human HeLa cell that is undergoing a cell division (cytokinesis). You can see the DNA in yellow, the myosin II in blue and the actin filaments in red. It finished 12th.

Dr. Dylan Burnette

Centipede fangs

Walter Piorkowski of Illinois submitted this awesome shot of the poison fangs of a centipede (Litius erythrocephalus). It finished in 13th place.

Walter Piorkowski

Mouse cells

Dr. Keunyoung Kim, from the University of California, San Diego, National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, sent in the photograph that finished in 14th place. It's a shot of mouse retinal ganglion cells at 40x.

Dr. Keunyoung Kim

Orange ladybird head

Norway's Geir Drange had the 15th place photo of the head section of an orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata).

Geir Drange

65 Radiolarians

Stefano Barone submitted the shot that came in 16th place. It's a great picture of 65 fossil Radiolarians (zooplankton) that were very carefully arranged by hand in Victorian style. The photo was shot at 100x.

Stefano Barone

Slime mold

Jose Almodovar from the University of Puerto Rico, took this interesting shot of slime mold (Mixomicete). It was done at 5x and it finished in 17th place.

José R. Almodóvar

Broad shouldered leaf beetle

The 18th place finisher was sent in by Pia Scanlon from the Department of Agriculture and Food in Australia. It shows parts of the wing-cover (elytron), abdominal segments and a rear leg of a broad-shouldered leaf beetle (Oreina cacaliae). It was shot at 40x and I'll bet you have never seen it quite like that before!

Pia Scanlon

Cow dung

Michael Crutchley from the United Kingdom sent in the photograph that rounded out the top twenty finishers. It's a picture of cow dung shot at 30x. I hope he was wearing a mask!

Michael Crutchley

You can find all of the honorable mentions at Nikon Small World and also on the Small World Facebook page. Don't forget that voting is still open for the Popular Vote category until October 25th. Vote for your favorite photograph and see where it finishes!

There is also another category that is collecting votes. The Nikon Small World in Motion contest, which is all about microphotography captured in video form, will be announcing the winners for 2016 on December 14th.