Microscopes have been around for some 400 years, and today they are even accessible via customized cell phones. The act of peering into a microscope of any power can open a whole world of life and beauty that exists right under (or in) our noses. And to capture that rare view for reproduction can also prove to be an art form in itself.
The ability to snap an image seen through an optical microscope—whether it's via fluorescence, polarized-light, dark-field, confocal, deconvolution or other techniques—has brought researchers and novices alike to the intersection of art and science. Since 1974 Nikon has recognized the year's best photomicrographs—pictures taken on a miniscule scale. Here are the top 20 winners of this year's Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.