Nikon Small World Announces the Winners of the 47th Annual Photo Competition, Image of an Oak Leaf Exterior Takes First Place

MELVILLE, N.Y., Sept. 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Nikon Instruments Inc. today unveiled the winners of the 47th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition. This year’s first place prize was awarded to Jason Kirk for his striking image of a southern live oak leaf’s trichomes, stomata and vessels. Using various lighting techniques and design tools, Jason’s final image is a masterful example of the dynamic relationship between imaging technology and artistic creativity. Using a custom-made microscope system that combines color filtered transmitted light with diffused reflected light, Jason captured around 200 individual images of the leaf and stacked them together to create the stunning image.

Jason used both transmitted and reflected light on opposite sides of the leaf to highlight three vital structures. Prominently featured in white are the trichomes, which are fine outgrowths that protect a plant against extreme weather, microorganisms, and insects. In purple, Jason highlights the stomata, small pores that regulate the flow of gases in a plant. Colored in cyan are the vessels that transport water throughout the leaf. All three are essential to plant life.

“The lighting side of it was complicated,” said Jason. “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.” Jason edited the color temperature and hue in post-production to better illustrate the various elements pictured.

When Jason is not directing the OiVM core facility at the Baylor College of Medicine, he can be found spending his free time customizing microscopes and photographing subjects found in his backyard. “I’ve learned a lot from the scientific community, having spent 20 plus years in this field doing microscopy at a fairly high level. But I’ve also learned a lot from the people in the hobbyist environment. Small World is a great combination of the two groups, and you don’t often get an opportunity to see that.”

Nikon Small World was created to show the world how art and science come together under the microscope. This year’s first place winner could not be a better example of that blend,” said Eric Flem, Communications Manager, Nikon Instruments, “I continue to be amazed by the level of talent we see every year, and this year’s winning gallery is no exception. As imaging technology continues to progress, the 47th annual competition has provided us with some amazing captures of scientific research and creativity from across a multitude of disciplines.”

Second place was awarded to Esmeralda Paric for her image of a microfluidic device containing hundreds of thousands of networking neurons. The primary neurons were extracted and cultured, then seeded and transduced with a virus. The particular image shows two populations separated but bridged, with different viral treatments. It was maintained for 30 days, immunostained, and tiled imaged.

Third place was captured by Frank Reiser for his picture of a rear leg, claw, and respiratory trachea of a hog louse (Haematopinus suis).

In addition to the top three winners, Nikon Small World recognized 100 photos out of thousands of entries from scientists and artists across the globe.

The 2021 judging panel included:

  • Dr. Nsikan Akpan, Health and Science Editor at New York Public Radio
  • Hank Green, Science Fiction Author and Internet Creator
  • Robin Kazmier, Science Editor at PBS NOVA
  • Dr. Alexa Mattheyses, Associate Professor of Cell, Developmental, and Integrative Biology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham
  • Dr. Hesper Rego, Assistant Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis at the Yale School of Medicine

For additional information, please visit, or follow the conversation on Facebook, Twitter @NikonSmallWorld and Instagram @NikonInstruments.


1st Place
Jason Kirk
Baylor College of Medicine
Optical Imaging & Vital Microscopy Core
Houston, Texas, USA
Trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf
Image Stacking
60X (Objective Lens Magnification)

2nd Place
Esmeralda Paric & Holly Stefen
Dementia Research Centre, Macquarie University
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Macquarie Park, NSW, Australia
A microfluidic device containing 300k networking neurons in 2 isolated populations. Both sides were treated with a unique virus and bridged by axons.
40X (Objective Lens Magnification)

3rd Place
Frank Reiser
Nassau Community College
Department of Biology
Garden City, New York, USA
Rear leg, claw, and respiratory trachea of a louse (Haematopinus suis)
Darkfield, Image Stacking
5X (Objective Lens Magnification)

4th Place
Paula Diaz
MinusPain, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
Department of Physiology
Santiago, Region Metropolitana, Chile
Sensory neuron from an embryonic rat
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

5th Place
Oliver Dum
Medienbunker Produktion
Bendorf, Rheinland Pfalz, Germany
Proboscis of a housefly (Musca domestica)
Image Stacking
40X (Objective Lens Magnification)

6th Place
Dr. Andrea Tedeschi
The Ohio State University / Wexner Medical Center
Department of Neuroscience
Columbus, Ohio, USA
3D vasculature of an adult mouse brain (somatosensory cortex)
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

7th Place
Dr. Tong Zhang & Dr. Paul Stoodley
The Ohio State University
Campus Microscopy & Imaging Facility
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Head of a tick
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

8th Place
Dr. Amy Engevik
Medical University of South Carolina
Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology
Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Cross section of mouse intestine
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

9th Place
Jan van IJken
Jan van IJken Photography and Film
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Water flea (Daphnia), carrying embryos and peritrichs
Darkfield, Image Stacking
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

10th Place
Sébastien Malo
Saint Lys, Haute-Garonne, France
Vein and scales on a butterfly wing (Morpho didius)
Image Stacking, Reflected Light
20X (Objective Lens Magnification)

11th Place
Jason Kirk & Carlos P. Flores Suarez
Baylor College of Medicine
Optical Imaging & Vital Microscopy Core
Houston, Texas, USA
Vasculature of a mouse retina
20X (Objective Lens Magnification)

12th Place
Jakub Sumbal
Masaryk University
Department of Histology and Embryology
Brno, Czech Republic
Breast organoid showing contractile myoepithelial cells (blue) crawling on secretory breast cells (red)
40X (Objective Lens Magnification)

13th Place
Dr. Felice Placenti
FP Nature and Landscape Photography
Siracusa, Sicilia, Italy
Cotton fabric with pollen grains
Darkfield, Image Stacking
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

14th Place
Dr. Joern N. Hopke
Waban, Massachusetts, USA
Image Stacking
4X (Objective Lens Magnification)

15th Place
Bernard Allard
Club Français de Microscopie
Sucy-en-Bry, France
Diatom (Arachnoidiscus)
Brightfield, Image Stacking
40X (Objective Lens Magnification)

16th Place
Ruohan Zhong
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Gibson Lab
Kansas City, Missouri, USA
An in vivo snapshot of the neurons surrounding the mouth and tentacles of a juvenile starlet sea anemone (Nematostella vectensis)
20X (Objective Lens Magnification)

17th Place
Martin Kaae Kristiansen
My Microscopic World
Aalborg, Nordjylland, Denmark
Filamentous strands of Nostoc cyanobacteria captured inside a gelatinous matrix
Image Stacking, Polarized Light
4X (Objective Lens Magnification)

18th Place
Saulius Gugis
Naperville, Illinois, USA
Table salt crystal
Image Stacking, Darkfield, Oblique, Rheinberg, Polarized Light
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

19th Place
Billie Hughes
Lotus Gemology
Bangkok, Thailand
Calcite crystal inclusion suspended in a spinel gemstone
Darkfield, Image Stacking
40X (Objective Lens Magnification)

20th Place
Alison Pollack
San Anselmo, California, USA
Slime mold (Arcyria pomiformis)
Image Stacking, Reflected Light
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Honorable Mentions

Álmos Becz
Eötvös Loránd University
Department of Systematic Zoology and Ecology
Szigetszentmiklós, Hungary
Water flea swimming near a reed stalk
4X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Levon Biss
Levon Biss Photography Ltd.
Ramsbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom
40 million year old gnat in Baltic amber
Image Stacking
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Dylan T. Burnette
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Two mouse fibroblast cells
Structured Illumination Microscopy (SIM)
60X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Caleb Dawson
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Department of Immunology
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Epithelial cells covering the intestine villi
Confocal, Fluorescence
63X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Sergii Dymchenko
Dim Photography
Bellevue, Washington, USA
Mold on top of a cherry stem
Image Stacking, Reflected Light
2X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Saket Ghosh & Dr. Hokitika Mandal
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Mohali
Department of Biological Sciences
Mohali, Punjab, India
Blood cells associated with the heart of a fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster)
40X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Thibault Gisclard
Paris, France
Radiolaria, a protozoan (Thyrsocyrthis triacantha)
Brightfield (with inverted values)
25X (Objective Lens Magnification)

James Alexander Innes, Sebastian Brandner & Silvia Marino
University College London
Department of Neurodegeneration, Institute of Neurology
London, United Kingdom
Human brain tumor cells labeled with lentivirus
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Erick Francisco Mesén
Canoas, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Midge (Chironomidae diptera
Image Stacking
9X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Waldo Nell
Delta, British Columbia, Canada
Hatched brine shrimp eggs
Darkfield, Fluorescence, Image Stacking
10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Andrew Mark Posselt
University of California, San Francisco
Department of Surgery
Mill Valley, California, USA
Hind leg of a male frog-legged beetle (Sagra buqueti)
Image Stacking
4X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Marco Retana
Palmares, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Robber fly (Asilidae)
Image Stacking
3.5X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Fred Terveer
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Red forest ant (Formica rufa)
Image Stacking
5X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Alexandra Tsitrina & Dr. Peter Gabrelian
Institute of Developmental Biology Russian Academy of Science
Core Facility
Moscow, Russian Federation
A freshwater crustacean (Bosmina sp.)
20X (Objective Lens Magnification)

About Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition
The Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition is open to anyone with an interest in photography or video. Participants may upload digital images and videos directly at For additional information, contact Nikon Small World, Nikon Instruments Inc., 1300 Walt Whitman Road, Melville, NY 11747, USA, or phone (631) 547-8569. Entry forms for Nikon’s 2022 Small World and Small World in Motion Competitions are available at

About Nikon Instruments Inc.
Nikon Instruments Inc. is the US microscopy arm of Nikon Healthcare, a world leader in the development and manufacture of optical and digital imaging technology for biomedical applications.  For more information, visit or contact us at 1-800-52-NIKON.

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