First place: Fluorescent turtle embryo (Teresa Zgoda & Teresa Kugler/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

11th place: A pair of ovaries from an adult Drosophila, or fruit fly (Dr. Yujun Chen & Dr. Jocelyn McDonald/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

The world looks different under a microscopic lens. A tiny lump of crystallized copper oxide looms like a supervillain’s fortress, all harsh facades and jutting angles. Spiders stare out of their portraits with alien gazes. A panel of microscopy experts and science journalists, including Ben Guarino of The Washington Post, judged thousands of entries for the 45th Annual Nikon Small World microscopy competition this summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. Photographers from nearly 100 countries submitted images from across the breadth of science, including geology and chemistry. But blown-up biology ruled the day, with images of embryos, cells, plants, vasculature, organs and animals. The best photos, some showcased here, combined art and science to magnify beauty.

First place was awarded to microscopy technician Teresa Zgoda and recent university graduate Teresa Kugler for their stunning photo of a turtle embryo. The two prepared the photo using a technique called image-stitching, which required Zgoda and Kugler to stack and stitch together hundreds of images to create their winning photograph.

“Microscopy lets us zoom in on the smallest organisms and building blocks that comprise our world — giving us a profound appreciation for the small things in life that far too often go unnoticed,” Kugler said. “It allows me to do science with a purpose.”

In addition to the overall winner, Nikon Small World recognized 88 photos from over 2,000 submissions around the world. Check out @NikonInstruments on Instagram to see the images.


Ninth place: Tulip bud cross section (Andrei Savitsky, Cherkassy/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

Third place: Alligator embryo developing nerves and skeleton (Daniel Smith Paredes & Dr. Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

Second place: Depth-color coded projections of three stentors (single-cell freshwater protozoans) (Dr. Igor Siwanowicz/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

17th place: Vitamin C (Karl Deckart/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

Seventh place: Chinese red carnation stamen (Dr. Guillermo López López/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

Fourth place: Male mosquito (Jan Rosenboom/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

Sixth place: Small white hair spider (Javier Rupérez/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

Fifth place: Snowflake (Caleb Foster/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

Eighth place: Frozen water droplet (Garzon Christian/Courtesy of NikonSmallWorld )

12th place: Mosquito larva (Anne Algar/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

16th place: Housefly compound eye pattern (Dr. Razvan Cornel Constantin/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

13th place: Cuprite (mineral composed of copper oxide) (Dr. Emilio Carabajal Márquez/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

15th place: Pregnant Daphnia magna (small planktonic crustacean) (Marek Miś/Courtesy of NikonSmallWorld)

10th place: BPAE cells in telophase stage of mitosis (Jason M. Kirk/courtesy of Nikon Small World)

More on In Sight:

See the big winners of Nikon’s micro-photo competition

The Year of the Dogs

Why gold matters

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.