Nikon Small World Microscope Photography Competition 2018: Stunning Images of a Hidden World

The annual competition, which was founded in 1974, aims to recognize excellence in photomicrography, which is defined as photography that uses microscope technology to capture high magnification images. Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition

A photography competition that aims to shine a light on the hidden microscopic world around us has been won by a stunning jewel-like image of a usually humble insect.

In his entry for the 44th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition, Emirati photographer Yousef Al Habshi captured part of the compound eyes and surrounding greenish scales of an Asian Red Palm weevil.

The tiny beetle, which is found in the Philippines, is just half an inch in size. “The main challenge was to show the black body against the black background without overexposing the skin and scales,” said Al Habshi.

“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,” he added. “Not all people appreciate small species, particularly insects. Through photomicrography we can find a whole new, beautiful world which hasn’t been seen before. It’s like discovering what lies under the oceans’ surface.”   

The annual competition, which was founded in 1974, aims to recognize excellence in photomicrography, which is defined as photography that uses microscope technology to capture high magnification images.

This year, almost 2,500 entries were submitted from scientists and artists in 89 countries. The submissions were evaluated on originality, informational content, technical proficiency and visual impact.

“Imaging and microscope technologies continue to develop and evolve to allow artists and scientists to capture scientific moments with remarkable clarity,” said Eric Flem, Communications Manager, Nikon Instruments. “Our first place this year illustrates that fact beautifully.”

Second place was awarded to Rogelio Moreno for his colorful photo of a fern. Saulius Gugis won third place for an image of a spittlebug in the process of producing a foam substance to hide from predators.

A full-color calendar of the 2018 winners will be produced and the top images will be seen on a U.S. national museum tour. For additional information, please visit, or follow the conversation on Instagram @NikonInstruments, Facebook and Twitter @NikonSmallWorld.  

In addition to the top three winners, Nikon Small World recognized an additional 92 photos which reveal the microscopic beauty around us. We’ve collected this year’s most spectacular images, which show that small truly is beautiful.

1 - Metapocyrtus subquadrulfier
1st place: Yousef Al Habshi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates—Eye of a Metapocyrtus subquadrulifer beetle. Reflected Light (20x). Yousef Al Habshi/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
2 - FernSorus
2nd place: Rogelio Moreno, Panama—Fern sorus (structures producing and containing spores). Autofluorescence (10x). Rogelio Moreno/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
3 - Spittlebug
3rd place: Saulius Gugis, Naperville, Illinois, USA—Spittlebug nymph in its bubble house. Focus Stacking (5x). Saulius Gugis/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
4 - nikosmallworld3
4th place: Can Tunçer, İzmir, Turkey—Peacock feather section. Focus Stacking (5x). Can Tunçer,/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
5 - spider_embryo
5th place: Dr. Tessa Montague, Harvard University, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA—Parasteatoda tepidariorum (spider embryo) stained for embryo surface (pink), nuclei (blue) and microtubules (green). Confocal (20x). Dr. Tessa Montague/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
6 - FOVEA_hanen-khabou-RGB
6th place: Hanen Khabou, Vision Institute, Department of Therapeutics, Paris, France—Primate foveola (central region of the retina). Fluorescence (40x). Hanen Khabou/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
7 - Human Tear Drop_x10
7th place: Norm Barker, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Department of Pathology & Art as Applied to Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA—Human teardrop. Darkfield (5x). Norm Barker/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
8 - Mango seed weevil head front
8th place: Pia Scanlon, Government of Western Australia, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, South Perth, Western Australia—Portrait of Sternochetus mangiferae (mango seed weevil). Stereomicroscopy, Image Stacking (1x). Pia Scanlon/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
9 - sechol2
9th place: Dr. Haris Antonopoulos, Athens, Greece—Security hologram. Darkfield Epi-illumination (10x). Dr. Haris Antonopoulos/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
10 - Taraxacum officinale (2,2 mm, 3x) porzószálak pollenekkel
10th place: Dr. Csaba Pintér, University of Pannonia, Georgikon Faculty, Department of Plant Protection, Keszthely, Hungary—Stalks with pollen grains. Focus Stacking (3x). Dr. Csaba Pintér/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
11 - Fibroblast Division
11th place: Nilay Taneja & Dr. Dylan Burnette, Vanderbilt University, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Nashville, Tennessee, USA—Human fibroblast undergoing cell division, showing actin (gray), myosin II (green) and DNA (magenta). Structured Illumination Microscopy (60x). Nilay Taneja & Dr. Dylan Burnette/Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition