Up Close With a Human Teardrop

By Ernie Mastroianni
Feb 20, 2019 2:30 AMDec 13, 2019 10:56 PM
Teardrop - Nikon Small World 2018 - Norm Barker
(Credit: Norm Barker)


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Tears often leave our faces feeling (and tasting) salty, but a closer look reveals the intricate patterns they can leave behind. Norm Barker, director of pathology photography at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, focused his microscope on a human teardrop, using a lighting technique to enhance contrast. Barker saw that as it started to dry, the salt and other substances in the teardrop bunched together and crystalized in these intricate, snowflakelike shapes. The picture ranked among the top 10 in the 2018 Nikon Small World Micrography Competition.

[This story originally appeared in print as "Dry Your Tears."]

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