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Nikon’s annual Microphotography contest winners

Or “photomicrography” as Newsweek described it…whatever.

Check out the slideshow of winners:

Nowhere is the power of photomicrography better documented than in Nikon’s Small World photomicrography competition, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. In photographs dating back to 1977, crystals, neurons, larvae, knitting needles, fabrics, and hundreds of other organisms and objects reveal scientific information and artistic beauty. This week, Nikon announced its top 20 winners for 2009, the best of almost 3,000 entries from around the world.

In the 35 years since the contest began, technology has dramatically advanced the field of microscopic imaging. Early on, photomicrography faced the challenge that came with old-fashioned film: researchers couldn’t see what they were capturing in real time, so they had to take multiple images to get one that was well lighted, well focused, and well framed. “It was always potluck to see what you would get at the end,” says Alan Opsahl, a senior scientist in the Investigative Pathology Group at Pfizer. “You wasted a lot of film, time, and energy to get that perfect image.” Today digital photography allows scientists to see their pictures as they take them and provides far more flexibility as they prepare their final images on a computer. Researchers can, for example, adjust colors to produce the most effective result. Opsahl did this with an image of mouse brain cells, which he submitted to Nikon’s contest this year. In the original digital image, the biological stains he used labeled the nuclei of the cells blue and the cell bodies and processes brown. But Opsahl liked it the other way around, because it allowed the delicate neurons to stand out better. “I flip-flopped the colors, much like you do with a negative,” he says. Nikon’s rules state that photos must be taken with a light microscope—as opposed to an electron microscope, which can achieve even higher levels of magnification—but there are no restrictions on how color is used.

Read the full article in Newsweek



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.

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