2013 Photomicrography Competition

Chaetoceros debilis (marine diatom), a colonial plankton organism

Wim van Egmond

Micropolitan Museum
Berkel en Rodenrijs, Zuid-Holland, The Netherlands

Differential Interference Contrast, Image Stacking


Wim van Egmond compared Nikon’s Small World competition to “a colorful stained-glass window that opens into a wonderful, unknown world.” His first-place winning image of Chaetoceros debilis, a colonial diatom, certainly represents that ideal while also finding the perfect convergence of science and art. Not only are diatoms one of the most important oxygen producers on earth, they are also a vital link in the food chain. The particular species documented in van Egmond’s winning photomicrograph was captured from marine plankton in the North Sea, and he wanted to show it in its full splendor. In order to showcase the various dimensions of the organism, van Egmond employed an image stacking technique. Combining many images, van Egmond used differential interference contrast, to obtain a dark blue background that provides a stunning contrast with the yellow and brown shades of the diatom. It’s a complicated technique, that when combined with van Egmond’s artistic eye, made him the clear winner of the 2013 competition. A freelance photographer who has held an interest in natural history since childhood, van Egmond has been practicing photomicrography for nearly two decades. While he enjoys studying and photographing of all types of microorganisms under the microscope, van Egmond believes that aquatic organisms in particular provide “a rich and inspiring source for photomicrography.”