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Dr. Csaba Pintér
Pollen on a flower stalk.
READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UP

Feather scales, pollen grains, and a single teardrop: what photos of the microscopic world reveal

By Johnny Simon

Nikon recently announced the winners of it Small World Photomicrography Competition, which recognizes the best photography of the unseen, microscopic world around us.

The first-place image, by Yousef Al Habshi from the United Arab Emirates, is a layered composite of over 100 exposures, showcasing the delicate green scaling around an Asian Red Palm weevil’s eye. As he describes it, it was extremely difficult to properly expose both the bright, luminous green scales while also capturing details of the chiaroscuro across the jet-black eye and and the black background.

“Because of the variety of coloring and the lines that display in the eyes of insects, I feel like I’m photographing a collection of jewelry,” Al Habshi said in a release announcing the results.

Yousef Al Habshi
Al Habshi’s winning weevil image.

All of the winning entries turn the expected on its head and show the beautiful and surreal worlds hidden to the naked eye. That’s also what drew Al Habshi to the meticulous work of looking for pictures at such a small scale. “Through photomicrography we can find a whole new, beautiful world which hasn’t been seen before,” he said. “It’s like discovering what lies under the ocean’s surface.”

Take a look at the other winning images:

A sorus (spore-producing structure) on a fern

Rogelio Moreno

A peacock feather

Can Tunçer

A human tear

Norm Barker

A mango seed weevil

Pia Scanlon

A security hologram

Dr. Haris Antonopoulos

Butterfly wing scales

Luciano Andres Richino

Acorn barnacles

Charles Krebs

A mite on the back of a honeybee

Antoine Franck

A drop of venom at the tip of an Asian hornet’s stinger

Pierre Anquet

Disclaimer: Quartz video producer Jacob Templin was a judge for the video portion of this contest.