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Incredible images reveal the eye of a weevil and other microscopic wonders

Photographer Yousef Al Habshi says his work capturing small insects often feels more like photographing the beauty of jewelry than a scientific process. That approach has earned Al Habshi first place in the Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition, as announced on October 11. The contest recognized three winning images and an additional 92 entries in an annual contest mixing science and art.

Al Habshi’s winning image captures the eyes and surrounding scales of an Asian Red Palm weevil. The image was created using a stack of over 128 micrographs and reflected light. The image captures both the insect’s eye and iridescent green scales. Al Habshi works with Claude Desplan, a professor of biology and neural science at New York University Abu Dhabi, using the images to help expand the understanding of the weevil and controlling infestation.

“Because of the variety of coloring and the lines that display in the eyes of insects, I feel like I’m photographing a collection of jewelry,” Al Habshi said. “Not all people appreciate small species, particularly insects. Through photomicrography we can find a whole new, beautiful world which hasn’t been seen before. It’s like discovering what lies under the ocean’s surface.”

The 44th annual contest also awarded second place to Rogelio Moreno for an image of a Fern sorus. The image is a 10x magnification of a spore-producing structure that was captured by lighting the sorus with ultraviolet light and using image stacking for a sharp capture.

Another bug shot took third place, the work of Saulius Gugis. The image shows a spittlebug making a bubble house, which the insects use to hide in. The image was shot with a 5x magnification.

“The Nikon Small World competition is now in its 44th year, and every year we continue to be astounded by the winning images,” said Nikon Instruments communications manager Eric Flem. “Imaging and microscope technologies continue to develop and evolve to allow artists and scientists to capture scientific moments with remarkable clarity. Our first place this year illustrated that fact beautifully.”

The contest also recently awarded winners in a related microscopic video competition.

In total, Nikon Small World recognized 95 images out of 2,500 entries. Images entered in the contest came from 89 different countries.

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