nikon small world photomicrography competition

Landscape in agate.

This beautiful picture was taken by John Koivula of the Gemmological Institute of America, and shows inclusions of goethite and haematite (iron oxides) in a specimen from Brazil. It won first place in the 1984 Nikon small world photomicrography competition. It was taken in transmitted light with the help of fibre optic side illumination at 30x magnification. What wonderful things gems have within.

Loz

Etch star on ruby crystal.

Whether natural or synthetic, ruby crystals have shapes on their surface. These occur as pits or raised bumps, and are usually triangular or hexagonal. Their shape is influenced by the crystal structure of the mineral, and they represent areas there the crystal was growing when the Earth ichor from which it crystallised ran out, or eaten away by magma or hydrothermal metamorphic fluids during its sejourn deep in the Earth.

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Fossil blue-green algae.

Another image from the Nikon small world photomicrography competition, winning 5th place in 1993, depicts a fossilised section of the type of organism that gave the world free oxygen three billion years ago or more. Without these life-forms, who incidentally are not algae but cyanobacteria, none of life as we know it would exist. The oxygen from these first photosynthesisers first filled the oceans, resulting in the banded iron formations from where we mine that metal, and then the atmosphere, paving the way for the rise of oxygen using marine and terrestrial life. In the process, they incidentally poisoned off most of the existing ecosystem, since it couldn’t tolerate free oxygen. They survive as what we now call extremophiles.

The magnification is 10 times, and the lighting used that known as brightfield, which is direct illumination from below the sample.

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Image credit: Norm Barker

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In Focus: Nikon Small World 2013

Nikon has just announced the winners of the 2013 Small World Photomicrography Competition. Started back in 1974, the contest invites photographers and scientists to submit images of all things visible under a microscope. I was fortunate enough to have been asked to be a judge in this year’s competition, and am happy to finally be able to share some of the winning images with you. Taking first place this year is a 250x view of a marine diatom by Wim van Egmond (photo #2 below), showing the complexity and stunning detail of its fragile helical chain. Other entries include close-up views of ladybug feet, mollusc radula, dinosaur bones, nerve structures in embryos, and much more. Enjoy a trip into a miniature world through the images shared here with us by Nikon, all from the 2013 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.

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