2019 Photomicrography Competition


Caleb Foster

Caleb Foster Photography
Jericho, Vermont, USA

Transmitted Light

4x (Objective Lens Magnification)

In Their Own Words

A Q&A with Nikon Small World winner Caleb Foster.

What is the subject matter of your winning image and why did you choose this image?

A snowflake from a Vermont winter storm. Snowflakes are incredibly beautiful, but also delicate and susceptible to small changes in temperature and pressure. I see this as a great analogy to our climate and world. Our ecosystems are completely intertwined; however, many people don’t take the time to see the impact their actions have on their surroundings. Just as I have to be careful in how I handle a snowflake so that it doesn’t melt during the process, we need to give careful thought to how our actions support stewardship of our shared world. I wanted to submit a snowflake image that was visually different from all others I have seen. I have spent many years working on lighting techniques that can light ice crystals in novel ways, obtaining unique images that have not been produced before.

What are the special techniques and/or challenges faced in creating this photomicrograph?

The biggest challenge was having my DIY microscope and camera outdoors in the snow. I photograph snowflakes on my back porch during a storm and have to combat wind, freezing temperatures and other factors. Handling snowflakes is a skill and has taken me numerous winters to master. Each flake is initially caught and “screened” on black velvet. The best ones are then transferred to black or clear glass slides via a small paintbrush or scalpel. The slides are placed under my photomicroscope and the photo is taken with a DSLR camera. A particularly challenging technique for this photo was the lighting. This image required numerous light sources (both above and below the stage), several mirrors and the use of a special curved mirror to separate white light into a rainbow to provide the unique color accents on the crystal.

What is your primary line of work?

My primary career has been in the field of life sciences research, using microscopy and other techniques to image and analyze cells, with the goal of discovering novel cures for various diseases. I have also had a photography business for 15 years and have built a substantial homemade photomicrography setup in my free time, merging my love of both photography and microscopy.

How long have you been taking photographs through a microscope? What first sparked your interest in photomicrography?

More than 15 years. I love to see, explore details in our world that are invisible to most people.

Do you tend to focus your microscopy toward a specific subject matter or theme? If so, why?

I’m passionate about snowflakes because each one is so timelessly beautiful but has such a brief lifespan. Trillions upon trillions of them are mass-produced in a winter storm but each one has complete uniqueness in its design. The challenge of photographing these delicate masterpieces gives me great satisfaction when I capture them.