Tellus displays winning Small World photomicrographs
by Marie Nesmith
Jan 20, 2012 | 4589 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tellus Science Museum Curator Julian Gray demonstrates how the photographs were taken that are included in the museum’s newest temporary exhibit highlighting photomicrography. With a click of his computer mouse, Gray fires the camera attached to a polarized light microscope (left), projecting the image of lauric acid on the screen. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Opening today, Tellus Science Museum's newest temporary exhibit showcases the art of photomicrography.

"We've never had an exhibit like this," said Tellus Curator Julian Gray. "Our exhibits have been on space-related programs. Right now we have a temporary exhibit on images taken by satellites that's [titled] the 'Earth From Space' exhibit. This is the first exhibit that we've had that is related to using microscopes and visualizing the world through the microscope.

"The exhibit is the 20 best images that were submitted to Nikon Instruments for their [2011] international competition, the Small World Competition. ... The range of items is pretty diverse. There are slices of rocks that are viewed microscopically, lots of images of cells and parts of microscopic organisms. There are bugs, things like a water flea and the face of an ant. The first prize went to an image of a green lacewing, which is a bug. It's just very tiny, but it's a very, very sharp image."

Started in 1974, the Nikon International Small World Competition annually rewards the efforts of photomicrographers.

According to, "A photomicrograph is a technical document that can be of great significance to science or industry. But a good photomicrograph is also an image whose structure, color, composition and content is an object of beauty, open to several levels of comprehension and appreciation.

"The Nikon Small World Competition is open to anyone with an interest in photography through the microscope. Truly international in scope, entries have been received from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Latin America, Asia and Africa. Winners have included both professionals and hobbyists. The subject matter is unrestricted and any type of light microscopy technique is acceptable, including phase contrast, polarized light, fluorescence, interference contrast, darkfield, confocal, deconvolution and mixed techniques. Entries submitted to Nikon are then judged by an independent panel of experts who are recognized authorities in the area of photomicrography and photography. These entries are judged on the basis of originality, informational content, technical proficiency and visual impact."

On display through May 6, the Nikon International Small World Competition exhibit is located at the beginning of Tellus' education wing.

"It's a very specialized field of science to take a photograph through a microscope," said Gray, whose crystallized vitamin C image received honorable mention in the Small World contest in 1988. "If anybody's tried it, they know that [by] just sticking a camera on a microscope, you actually can get an image.

"But to get images of this quality takes very specialized equipment, thousands of dollars worth of equipment, and a lot of training and experience to master this art and that's what the competition is all about. These people are being rewarded for being the best in the field by Nikon, and Nikon is trying to reward that and trying to recognize their efforts and to heighten awareness of the field of photomicrography."

Encompassing 120,000 square feet at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville, Tellus is comprised of four main galleries -- The Weinman Mineral Gallery, The Fossil Gallery, Science In Motion and The Collins Family My Big Backyard -- a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory. A Smithsonian affiliate, Tellus has attracted more than 550,000 visitors since opening in January 2009.

For more information about the museum and its offerings, call 770-606-5700 or visit