If a marine diatom doesn’t sound like a beautiful thing to you, you haven’t yet seen Wim van Egmond’s photo of one, which took first place in the 2013 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.
Judged for both artistry and scientific technique, the entries into Nikon’s annual competition reveal the complexity and beauty of the world that lies beyond our eye’s ability to see. This year’s winners included the spidery web of a neuron as it receives a signal, a chameleon embryo color-coded to show cartilage and bone and the eye of a ghost shrimp magnified 140 times.
Van Egmond’s first-place photo, which reveals a pristine yellow diatom curled like a strand of DNA, is created from a stack of more than 90 images. Twenty of van Egmond’s still images have been recognized as Small World finalists in the past decade.
“I approach micrographs as if they are portraits,” van Egmond said in a press release. “The same way you look at a person and try to capture [her] personality, I observe an organism and try to capture it as honestly and realistically as possible.”
The care taken is evident in his winning picture, and in all of the finalists. Click through above to see more of the winners.
Russian photographer Alexander Semenov captures a close-up image of an unidentified starfish. (Alexander Semenov)