Get up close with the stunning images from the Nikon Small World photo contest

Get close enough, and everyday objects become artwork — on October 4, Nikon announced the winners for the Nikon Small World photomicrography competition, with the first place prize going to the researcher behind an image of a single skin cell.

Bram van den Broek, of the Netherlands Cancer Institute, took first place honors for his image of a skin cell expressing keratin, which circles the cell with a fluorescent yellow pattern. Besides just being a stunning image, the shot is helping researchers understand the keratin protein, which is often an indicator of how aggressive some types of cancer are.

“There are more than 50 different keratin proteins known in humans. The expression patterns of keratin are often abnormal in skin tumor cells, and it is thus widely used as a tumor marker in cancer diagnostics,” van den Broek said.  “By studying the ways different proteins like keratin dynamically change within a cell, we can better understand the progression of cancers and other diseases.”

The second-place shot also reveals the complexities in an everyday sight — the macro image of a flowering plant, Senecio vulgaris or groundsel. The shot, by Havi Sarfaty of Israel, shows the seed head of the plant at a 2x magnification.

The third-place shot looks like it came straight from Pac-Man — but it’s actually a 100x magnification of what algae looks like when it spreads with new daughter colonies. Jean-Marc Babalian of France captured the shot using a differential interference contrast microscope.

The contest awarded 85 more photos in the contest, selecting the shots from over 2,000 entries representing 88 countries. With the 2017 contest as part of Nikon’s yearlong 100th anniversary celebration, the winners will head to Japan for an exclusive tour of Nikon’s headquarters and factories.

“This year’s winners not only reflect remarkable research and trends in science, but they also allow the public to get a glimpse of a hidden world,” said Eric Flem, Nikon Instruments communications manager. “This year’s winning photo is an example of important work being done in the world of science, and that work can be shared thanks to rapidly advancing imaging technology.”

The contest’s complete list of winners can be viewed at the Nikon Small World website, along with the winners for the video competition.