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A beautiful oak leaf portrait won the 2021 Nikon Small World photography contest

A closeup view of even the most common objects can make the mundane look spectacular.

A glimpse of the underside of a southern live oak tree leaf, which won first place in the 2021 Nikon Small World photomicroscopy competition, is just one example. Jason Kirk, director of Baylor College of Medicine’s Optical Imaging and Vital Microscopy Core in Houston and a self-described microscope enthusiast, snapped the prizewinning photo with a microscope that he finished building in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. He tested his homemade device with a variety of objects from his yard, including tree leaves.

A closeup of a southern live oak leaf, shown at 60 times magnification, with the leaf's trichomes in white, vessels in cyan and stomata in purple

“A lot of times, you stick weird stuff under the microscope and see what it looks like,” Kirk says. “That’s what happened with this.”

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