From The Labs

Image of the Month: First place, 2021 Nikon Small World Photo Competition

This month From the Labs highlights the 2021 winner of Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography Competition.

Congratulations, Jason Kirk, director of Baylor’s Optical Imaging & Vital Microscopy (OiVM) Core Lab!
Three essential elements of plant life. The image shows a closeup of an oak leaf with trichomes (white star-like shapes), stomata in purple and leaf vessels in cyan. Objective magnification was 60x. See text below for more details.  Image by Jason Kirk/ Optical Imaging & Vital Microscopy (OiVM) Core Lab.

Prominently featured in this photo in white are trichomes, which are fine outgrowths that protect a plant against extreme weather and insects.  The stomata, small pores that regulate the flow of gases in a plant, are highlighted in purple. Colored in cyan are the vessels that transport water throughout the leaf. All three are essential to plant life.

During an interview with Nikon, Jason explained the process involved in creating this image:

Custom-made microscope used in this work. Photo courtesy of Jason Kirk.

“Using a custom-made microscope system that combines color-filtered transmitted light with diffused reflected light, I captured around 200 individual images of the leaf and stacked them together to create the stunning image,” Jason said.

“The lighting side of it was complicated,” said Jason. “Microscope objectives are small and have a very shallow depth of focus. I couldn’t just stick a giant light next to the microscope and have the lighting be directional. It would be like trying to light the head of a pin with a light source that’s the size of your head.” Jason edited the color temperature and hue in post-production to better illustrate the various elements pictured.

“I’ve learned a lot from the scientific community, having spent 20 plus years in this field, but I’ve also learned a lot from the people in the hobbyist environment,” said Jason, “Small World is a great combination of the two groups, and you don’t often get an opportunity to see that.”

Nikon’s Small World is regarded as the leading forum for showcasing the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope.

See all the winners here.

Jason Kirk



Jason Kirk is the director of the Optical Imaging & Vital Microscopy (OiVM) Core Lab at Baylor College of Medicine.




Are you interested in other microscopy methods that are available through the OiVM Core? Visit their website.


By Ana María Rodríguez, Ph.D.


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