Nikon Inspires Science Lovers With Photomicrography Video Contest

Starfish larva, predatory ciliates, and flowering fungi are ready for their close-ups.

Nikon Inspires Science Lovers With Photomicrography Video Contest

WHAT: Winners of the sixth annual Nikon Small World in Motion Photomicrography Competition announced.

WHO: Winners: Stanford University’s William Gilpin, Vivek N. Prakash, and Manu Prakash (1st place), Washington photographer Charles Krebs (2nd), Wim van Egmond of the Netherland’s Micropolitan Museum (3rd), plus 17 honorable mentions. A full list of winners is available here.

WHY WE CARE: Nikon’s Small World, has been a leading showcase for microscope photography since 1975. By 2012, video capabilities had advanced to the point where Nikon could spin off a separate competition for movies and digital time-lapse photography, an increasingly useful tool in studying microorganism function. Entries are judged on originality, informational content, technical proficiency, and visual impact.

Capturing life at this scale is tricky. This year’s winner, of a starfish larva churning surrounding water in search of food, used dark field microscopy to film the paths of small plastic beads directed by the currents around the starfish. It’s similar to capturing time-lapse videos of star trails at night. They then stacked images in contiguous groups to make a time-resolved long-exposure video to showcase the movement. The scientists were surprised by the starfish’s ability to create such an intricate pattern in the water.

“The beauty of this time-lapse video and the science behind it epitomizes how video is not only essential to scientific researchers, but to inspire future scientists to explore life around them,” says Nikon’s Eric Flem in a statement.

About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.