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Nikon’s 2018 photomicrography competition gives glimpse into tiny world beyond our vision

Nick Whigham, October 17, 2018 7:00PM

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Mango seed weevil. media_cameraMango seed weevil.


Reading level: green

You can’t see them but you almost certainly have tiny animals living on your face.

These microscopic* mites* eat, breed* and finally die on you. It sounds gross but it’s kind of a beautiful unseen world.

Thanks to photomicrography — photos taken through a microscope — we can see the true beauty of tiny life forms.

Nikon’s Small World photo competition gives a glimpse into the thriving world beyond our natural vision. While these guys are bigger than face mites, it’s rare we see them up close and personal.

An interesting video about itch mites that live in Central Europe and the US.

This year’s finalists included a range of vibrant images that show the stunning patterns and beautiful colours of the microscopic natural world.

The winner of the 2018 competition was Yousef Al Habshi from the United Arab Emirates who snapped an image of the compound eyes and surrounding greenish scales of a beetle, or Metapocyrtus subquadrulifer.

Here’s some of our favourite images from the unusual photo competition.

1. Eye of a Metapocyrtus subquadrulifer beetle by Yousef Al Habshi. First prize winner
(The photo was taken at 20x objective lens magnification.)

f f f f f f media_cameraEye of a Metapocyrtus subquadrulifer beetle.

2. Fern sorus (structures producing and containing spores) by Rogelio Moreno Gill
(The photographer from Panama took the photo at 10x objective lens magnification.)

g g g g g g media_cameraFern sorus.

3. Human fibroblast undergoing cell division, showing actin (grey), myosin II (green) and DNA (pink) by Nilay Taneja and Dr Dylan Burnette
(Photo taken at 60 x objective lens magnification using a technique called Structured Illumination Microscopy.)

g g g g g g g media_cameraHuman fibroblast undergoing cell division.

4. Spittlebug nymph in its bubble house by Saulius Gugis
(This photo used a technique called Focus Stacking and took out third prize.)

f f f f f f media_cameraSpittlebug nymph.

5. Portrait of Sternochetus mangiferae (mango seed weevil) by Pia Scanlon
(This photo was taken in Perth, Australia, using stereomicroscopy and image stacking.)

f f f f f f media_cameraMango seed weevil.

6. Parasteatoda tepidariorum (spider embryo) stained for embryo surface (pink), nuclei (blue) and microtubules (green) by Dr. Tessa Montague
(Dr Tessa Montague works at Harvard University, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.)

f f f f f f media_cameraSpider embryo.

7. Varroa destructor (mite) on the back of a honeybee by Antoine Franck
(Focus Stacking, 1x objective lens magnification.)

d d d d d d media_cameraMite on a honeybee.


  • microscopic: so small as to be visible only with a microscope
  • mites: a tiny arachnid with four pairs of legs when adult
  • breed: have babies



  • What is photomicrography?
  • Which company runs the photo competition?
  • What type of animal was photographed by the winner?
  • Which Australian city was the weevil picture taken in?
  • Antoine Franck photographed a mite on the back of which animal?

1. Colours, patterns and shapes
Look carefully at the photos. Choose your favourite one. Create a drawing or artwork inspired by the colours, patterns, shapes or anything that you see in the photo.

Time: Allow 25 minutes
Curriculum Links: Visual Arts

Write a caption for each of the photos in this story. Your caption should include the name of the photo, the photographer and an explanation of why you think that the photo was chosen as a finalist in the competition.

Give as much detail in your explanation as you can.

Time: Allow 25 minutes
Curriculum Links: English

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalists has used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Which is your favourite microscopic image and why?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.

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