Bug bite leads to photography award

First place at this year's contest

No matter who you are or what you do, you’ve been bitten by a bug at some point in your life – and they really are a nuisance. But for Igor Siwanowicz, a bug bite turned out to be all but annoying, as it helped him win the 2011 Nikon International Small World photography contest.

You probably wouldn't guess what this is: a blade of grass magnified 200 times. Credit: Dr. Donna Stolz University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

This photo of a teal insect larva with dangerously-looking jaws snatched first prize with quite some luck, as Igor fought off his first instinct of squashing the bug after being bitten, and instead put it in a test tube to photograph later.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is something you are using right now: the surface of a microchip. Credit: Alfred Pasieka Germany

“My art causes a dissonance for its viewer — a conflict between the culturally imprinted perception of an insect as something repulsive and ugly with a newly acquired admiration of the beauty of its form,” said Siwanowicz, who completed his doctoral studies in protein crystallography but now works in invertebrate photography for research. “My hope is that in some way, my photomicrographs prompt people to realize the presence of cultural programming, question it, and eventually throw it off as an illusion.”

A big contest with small targets

This picture of a mouse nerve cell definitely lit up the judges' spirits. Credit: Gabriel Luna UC Santa Barbara, Neuroscience Research Institute Santa Barbara, California, USA

Nikon first organized this event in 1974 (!), and since then, both scientists and photographers have been participating with more and more interesting entries.

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This is a metamorphic rock, called a granulite, which also bears some graphite. Credit: Dr. Bernardo Cesare Department of Geosciences Padova, Italy

Even though the panel of judges has already had their say and chose the best 20 photomicrographs as well as the honorable mentions, the public can still vote and make it matter until 30 October here.

If you ask me, this little guy doesn't even look real - but it is; it is a marine copepod called Temora longicornis. Credit: Dr. Jan Michels Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel Kiel, Germany

This little and surprisingly cute water flea took 10th place. Credit: Joan Röhl Institute for Biochemistry and Biology Potsdam, Germany

So, take a look around, and tell us, which one’s your favorite? If you ask me, they’re all just fabulous!

Whoa! It won't come out through your screen and attack you, calm down! Although it looks like it has been taken straight from the horror movies, it is only a fluorescent ant head. Credit: Dr. Jan Michels Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel Kiel, Germany

I just bet you didn't know how lively plain old sand can be! Credit: Yanping Wang Beijing Planetarium Beijing, China

What you are looking at now is a lobe coral's pigmentation response. Credit: James H. Nicholson Coral Culture and Collaborative Research Facility, NOAA/NOS/NCCOS/CCEHBR & HML Charleston, South Carolina, USA

This is definitely one of my all time favorites! This is a collage of mammalian cells, stained to reveal various proteins and organelles assembled into a Christmas wreath. Credits: Credit: Dr. Donna Stolz The University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

This picture has been waiting to be seen for a very long time - about 150 million years in fact. What you are looking at is an image of dinosaur bone cells which have turned into agate.