Amazing Mother Nature, as Seen Through the Microscope

From stink bug eggs to fruit fly ovaries, it's Mother Nature from a completely new perspective. The winning pictures from the 2011 Olympus BioScapes photography contest show life as never before -- up close, through a microscope. 

Olympus BioSpaces 2012 Winners

This year’s winning images reflect the latest advances in neuroscience and cell biology, chosen for their scientific and technical merit as well as the beauty and impact of the images. Some of the images are purely scientific; others reflect our endless fascination with the little things in life.

Browse the whole gallery at, or -- if you think you have what it takes -- submit an image for the 2012 contest.

Olympus BioSpaces

2011 10 Guenther nostock alga colonies

10th Place Winner

Subject: Spherical colonies of bluegreen algae (Nostoc commune)

Technique: Darkfield illumination

Gerd Guenther / Olympus BioScapes

2011 9 Bettighofer diatom opens to 21mb

9th Place Winner

Subject: Living diatom Mediopyxis helysia, showing the cell nuclei and golden chloroplasts.

Technique: Brightfield

Wolfgang Bettighofer / Olympus BioScapes

2011 8 Oldenbourg LaFountain spermatocytes meiosis

8th Place Winner

Subject: Crane fly (Nephrotoma suturalis) sperm cell dividing (metaphase of meiosis)

Technique: Polarized light microscopy, 60x objective

James LaFountain and Rudolf Oldenbourg / Olympus BioScapes

2011 7 Newquist fruit fly flower

7th Place Winner

Subject: Fruit fly (Drosophila) ovaries and uterus

Technique: Fluorescence

Gunnar Newquist / Olympus BioScapes

2011 6 Antonopoulos stink bug eggs

6th Place Winner

Subject: Stink bug eggs

Technique: Brightfield illumination

Haris Antonopoulos / Olympus BioScapes

2011 5 Nicholson coral -brilliant

5th Place Winner

Subject: Live coral Goniastrea sp., known as green brain coral. One full polyp in the center is shown with four surrounding polyps.

Technique: Phase contrast illumination

James Nicholson of NOAA/NOS/NCCOS, Charleston, S.C. / Olympus BioScapes

4 Lee Paramecia Contractile Vacuoles 400X

4th Place Winner

Subject: Paramecia contractile vacuoles, which regulate water pressure within the protozoan's body

Technique: Phase contrast illumination

Edwin Lee / Olympus BioScapes


3rd Place Winner

Subject: COS-7 cell membrane. Cells of this type are often transfected for biochemistry and cell biology research

Technique: Bessel beam super-resolution structured illumination microscopy

Dr. Liang Gao / Olympus BioScapes

2011 2 von Wangenheim root growing movie

2nd Place Winner

Subject: Lateral plant (Arabidopsis thaliana) root growing out of the primary root

Technique: Digital scanned light-sheet microscope

Daniel von Wangenheim / Olympus BioScapes

2011 1 Krebs Rotifer 4mb

1st Place Winner

Subject: Rotifer Floscularia ringens feeding. Its rapidly beating cilia (hair-like structures) bring water containing food to the rotifer

Technique: Differential interference contrast microscopy

Charles Krebs / Olympus BioScapes

2010 Bioscapes Intro

Last year's winners featured specimens like mushrooms, fish scales, and even red wine.

Olympus BioScapes

10th Place Laurie Knight

10th Place Winner

Subject: Weevil (possibly Curculio nucum or Curculio glandium). 

Technique: Image captured using episcopic illumination. 

Laurie Knight / Olympus BioScapes

9th Place Yanping Wang

9th Place Winner

Subject: Wildflower seeds. 

Technique: Image captured using brightfield reflected light.

Yanping Wang / Olympus BioScapes

8th Place Dr. Jan Michels

8th Place Winner

Subject: Beetle leg. 

Technique: Lateral view of the adhesive pad of the first leg of a beetle (Clytus sp.), captured using autofluorescence.

Dr. Jan Michels / Olympus BioScapes

7th Place Dr. Igor Siwanowicz

7th Place Winner

Subject: Eye of a common blue damselfly. 

Technique: This projection of a series of confocal microscope images shows the regular, crystal-like architecture of the eye of the Enallagma cyathigerum, an active visual predator and a swift flyer. The area covered in the photo measures approximately 0.6 x 0.8mm; the image is a composite of two overlapping confocal image stacks.

Dr. Igor Siwanowicz / Olympus BioScapes

6th Place Dr. Jerzy Gubernator

6th Place Winner

Subject: Spirogyra algae. 

Technique: Brightfield and polarized light.

Dr. Jerzy Gubernator / Olympus BioScapes

5th Place Dr M.R. Dadpour

5th Place Winner

Subject: Primordium (bud) of the weedy flower Tribulus sp. at its final stages of development. 

Technique: More than 100 z-stacks were combined to produce the final image, which was captured using epi-illumination.

Dr. M.R. Dadpour / Olympus BioScapes

4th Place Wolfgang Bettighofer

4th Place Winner

Subject: Living Licmophora juegensii on red alga, together with the diatom Cocconeis and filamentous cyanobacterial colonies. 

Technique: Licmophora cells can move to locate a place with suitable light exposure. They then produce a mucilaginous stalk to hold themselves in place. This multi-layer image was captured using differential interference contrast. 

Wolfgang Bettighofer / Olympus BioScapes

3rd Place James Nicholson

3rd Place Winner 

Subject: Solitary coral, Fungia sp. 

Technique: The tentacle tips, called acrospheres, are visibly enhanced using a technique developed for doing epifluorescence without a barrier filter. 

James Nicholson / Olympus BioScapes

2nd Place Thomas Deerinck

2nd Place Winner

Subject: Rat brain. 

Technique: Widefield multiphoton fluorescence image stained to reveal the distribution of glia (cyan), neurofilaments (green) and cell nuclei (yellow) in the hippocampus.

Thomas Deerinck / Olympus BioScapes

1st place Dr. Igor Siwanowicz

1st Place Winner

Subject: The eyes of a daddy longlegs (Harvestman), showing the lenses (two large ovals), retinas and optic nerves. 

Technique: The image is a depth color-coded projection of a confocal image stack.

Dr. Igor Siwanowicz / Olympus BioScapes

Amazing Mother Nature, as Seen Through the Microscope

From stink bug eggs to fruit fly ovaries, it's Mother Nature from a completely new perspective. The winning pictures from the 2011 Olympus BioScapes photography contest show life as never before -- up close, through a microscope. 

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