Planet Earth

Award-Winning Photos Bring the Microscopic World to Life

The winners, and a few of our favorites, from the 2015 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.


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Photo Credits: Daniel H. Miller and Ethan S. Sokol

Daniel H. Miller and Ethan S. Sokol, of the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research at MIT, photographed a lab-grown human mammary gland at 100x. The image placed 4^th.

Photo Credits: Charles Krebs

Photographer Charles Krebs, from Issaquah, Washington captured this line of feeding rotifers, displayed at 50x. The photo placed 16^th.

Photo Credits: David Maitland

Looking strangely face-like are these vascular bundles of papyrus, taken by David Maitland, of Feltwell, United Kingdom, viewed at 200x. Maitland specializes in macro and microphotography. This picture was awarded image of distinction.

Photo Credits: Evan Darling

Evan Darling, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, photographed the underside of this tiny Starfish at 10x. The image placed 7^th.

You can view all 88 winners online now at

Photo Credits: Giorgio Seano Rakesh K. Jain

A remarkable live image of perfused vasculature in a mouse brain reveals a glioblastoma, a fast growing tumor, in rendered in green. Giorgio Seano and Rakesh K. Jain of Harvard Medical School and the Edwin L. Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology won fifth place for this image.

Photo Credits: Richard Kirby

Richard Kirby, (a.k.a. the Plankton Pundit) of the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, United Kingdom, captured this planktonic larva of a horseshoe worm (phoronid), magnified 450x. The picture took 19^th place.

Photo Credits: Ralph Grimm

For the past 41 years, photographers have showcased their best images of subjects captured under the microscope in the Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition. On Wednesday, Nikon announced the winners of this year's competition, and former beekeeper and Australian high school teacher Ralph Grimm won the top prize after seeing eye-to-eye with a honeybee.

Grimm's striking image reveals an incredibly detailed honeybee eye coated with dandelion pollen, magnified 120x. This image and 87 others chosen by the judges (Discover photo editor Ernie Mastroianni was among them) for the competition help us see the hidden world in a new way every year. Here's a look at some of the other winners, and a few of our favorites from the competition.

Photo Credits: Kristen Earle, Gabriel Billings, KC Huang and Justin Sonnenburg

Kristen Earle, Gabriel Billings, KC Huang and Justin Sonnenburg, of Stanford University’s School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, took second place with this photo of a mouse colon colonized with human microbiota, seen at 63x.

Photo Credits: Igor Siwanowicz

Third place was awarded to Igor Siwanowicz of the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Hughes Medical Institute. This fearsome looking creature, a humped bladderwort, is a freshwater carnivorous plant, magnified 100x.

Photo Credits: Nathanael Prunet

Nathanael Prunet of Caltech calls himself a microscopic farmer on his Twitter page, but he is really just as large as any typical human. He took 9^th place with this photo of young buds of Arabidopsis, a flowering plant displayed at 40x.

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