That...is a leaf.

You’ve never seen a snowflake, table salt, or the head of a tick this close up.

The winners of the 47th Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition have been announced, with the top prize awarded to the Baylor College of Medicine’s Jason Kirk for his close-up image of a southern live oak leaf.

Stacking together 200 individual images of the leaf, Kirk used a custom-made microscope system and edited the colour temperature and hue in post-production. Those white tentacle looking things are trichomes (which protect the plant against extreme weather), the purple parts are the stomata (which regulate gases), and the bits in cyan are vessels (which guide water through the plant).

“The lighting side of it was complicated,” said Kirk in a press statement. “Microscope objectives are small and have a very shallow depth of focus. I couldn’t just stick a giant light next to the microscope and have the lighting be directional. It would be like trying to light the head of a pin with a light source that’s the size of your head. Nearly impossible.”

Esmeralda Paric won second place for her image of a microfluidic device filled with 300,000 networking neurons, and Frank Reiser won third for his close-up image of a hog louse.

These images below are the top 20, in order, from the photography component of the competition, which also features an exceptional video prize — you need to see the winners of this year’s comp. Plus, if you’d like more, here are last year’s winners.

Winner: Jason Kirk, Trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf.

Winner: Jason Kirk, Trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf.
Credit: Jason Kirk

Second place: Esmeralda Paric and Holly Stefen, A microfluidic device containing 300,000 networking neurons in two isolated populations. Both sides were treated with a unique virus and bridged by axons.

Second place: Esmeralda Paric and Holly Stefen, A microfluidic device containing 300,000 networking neurons in two isolated populations. Both sides were treated with a unique virus and bridged by axons.
Credit: Esmeralda Paric and Holly Stefen

Third place: Frank Reiser, Rear leg, claw, and respiratory trachea of a louse.

Third place: Frank Reiser, Rear leg, claw, and respiratory trachea of a louse.
Credit: Frank Reiser

Paula Diaz, Sensory neuron from an embryonic rat.

Paula Diaz, Sensory neuron from an embryonic rat.
Credit: Paula Diaz

Oliver Dum, Proboscis of a housefly.

Oliver Dum, Proboscis of a housefly.
Credit: Oliver Dum

Dr. Andrea Tedeschi, 3D vasculature of an adult mouse brain (somatosensory cortex).

Dr. Andrea Tedeschi, 3D vasculature of an adult mouse brain (somatosensory cortex).
Credit: DR. ANDREA TEDESCHI

Dr. Tong Zhang and Dr. Paul Stoodley, Head of a tick.

Dr. Tong Zhang and Dr. Paul Stoodley, Head of a tick.
Credit: Dr. Tong Zhang and Dr. Paul Stoodley

Dr. Amy Engevik, Cross section of mouse intestine.

Dr. Amy Engevik, Cross section of mouse intestine.
Credit: Dr. Amy Engevik

Jan van IJken, Water flea carrying embryos and peritrichs.

Jan van IJken, Water flea carrying embryos and peritrichs.
Credit: Jan van IJken


Sébastien Malo, Vein and scales on a butterfly wing.

Sébastien Malo, Vein and scales on a butterfly wing.
Credit: Sébastien Malo

Jason Kirk and Carlos P. Flores Suarez, Vasculature of a mouse retina.

Jason Kirk and Carlos P. Flores Suarez, Vasculature of a mouse retina.
Credit: Jason Kirk and Carlos P. Flores Suarez

Jakub Sumbal, Breast organoid showing contractile myoepithelial cells (blue) crawling on secretory breast cells (red).

Jakub Sumbal, Breast organoid showing contractile myoepithelial cells (blue) crawling on secretory breast cells (red).
Credit: Jakub Sumbal

Dr. Felice Placenti, Cotton fabric with pollen grains.

Dr. Felice Placenti, Cotton fabric with pollen grains.
Credit: Dr. Felice Placenti

Dr. Joern N. Hopke, Snowflake.

Dr. Joern N. Hopke, Snowflake.
Credit: Dr. Joern N. Hopke

Bernard Allard, Diatom (Arachnoidiscus).

Bernard Allard, Diatom (Arachnoidiscus).
Credit: Bernard Allard

Ruohan Zhong, An in vivo snapshot of the neurons surrounding the mouth and tentacles of a juvenile starlet sea anemone.

Ruohan Zhong, An in vivo snapshot of the neurons surrounding the mouth and tentacles of a juvenile starlet sea anemone.
Credit: Ruohan Zhong

Martin Kaae Kristiansen, Filamentous strands of Nostoc cyanobacteria captured inside a gelatinous matrix.

Martin Kaae Kristiansen, Filamentous strands of Nostoc cyanobacteria captured inside a gelatinous matrix.
Credit: Martin Kaae Kristiansen

Saulius Gugis, Table salt crystal.

Saulius Gugis, Table salt crystal.
Credit: Saulius Gugis

Billie Hughes, Calcite crystal inclusion suspended in a spinel gemstone.

Billie Hughes, Calcite crystal inclusion suspended in a spinel gemstone.
Credit: Billie Hughes

Alison Pollack, Slime mold (Arcyria pomiformis).

Alison Pollack, Slime mold (Arcyria pomiformis).
Credit: Alison Pollack

Want more close-ups under the microscope? Check out the video winners.

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