Winners of WSC21: Microscopy images

The following post list the winners of WSC 2021.

The winning submission of Microscopy images category shows us Midge (Diptera) larva seen through polarized light, x1,000 magnification. It was made by Karl Gaff.

Comment from the author:

My name is Karl Gaff ( and I am a professional microscopist and scientific photographic artist from Dublin, Ireland. I am an applied physicist in the School of Physics, Clinical and Optometric Sciences at TU Dublin where I manage the advanced labs for experimental physics. In my free time however, I carry out all of my photographic work from my home studio in South Dublin.

My love for science and nature began in my early life when I was around six or seven years old when I received my first microscope. Albeit a toy, I was mesmerized by my first glimpse through the eyepieces. An invisible world opened up inhabited by millions of tiny animals and single celled creatures, swimming and feeding, totally unaware that they were being watched. It was an epiphany for me.

I would spend all my summer holidays from school collecting and looking at parts of plants and their flowers, exploring ponds and swamps and collecting jam jars of samples from them with excitement. Still to this day I get excited by doing that!

At the time, the microscope was incapable of having a camera adapted to it. Of course, as I look back, it would have also been far from capable of producing the dazzling imagery that I am used to today.

There are a couple of aspects of photomicrography that captivate me. Experimentation with chemical alchemy is one of my hot topics. I am greatly interested in researching and experimenting with chemicals. My research in my laboratory leads me to the synthesis of chemical ‘potions’ which when crystallized and viewed through the polarising microscope reveal the wizardry of Nature. Peering through the microscope, you witness before your eyes, the spontaneous emergence of visually stunning patterns unfolding and evolving out of an otherwise transparent soup of chemicals. Taking on a resemblance to forests, knotted vines, colourful flower gardens or complicated geometrical self-assemblies. The science of it all, the orchestration of quantum mechanics with thermodynamics and how all science is entangled, it really blows my mind! On witnessing these events through the microscope, it is easy to recognise how nature is written in the language of physics and mathematics!

Life never gets boring, because when the chemistry doesn’t go to plan due to factors out of my control, I turn my attention to photographing creatures from the pond. The midge fly larva, seen here, is my first attempt at creating detailed panoramas of pond creatures. The larvae of midge flies have to be the most exciting and fascinating creatures that I enjoy photographing through the microscope.

Comment from the jury:

The entry is a scientific image with an accurate technical description and a proper scale. More importantly, it is eye-catching, and it is a concept that was not present on our archive yet: its idea includes both aspects related to biology and physics in the same image, therefore being an effective educational tool to explore both fields.


Anther and pollen of a sticky geranium, Geranium viscosissimum. Clayhill1 from USA.
Lipid islands and some instances of thin film interference on a soap bubble at 250x magnification. Karl Gaff from Ireland.
Thin crystalline film of caesium chloride imaged in compensated polarised light microscopy. Karl Gaff from Ireland.
Tracheae and tracheoles in mayfly larva gills. Marek Miś from Poland.
A micrograph of a nanostructured silicon image. Яна Сычикова from Ukraine.
Polyphemus, a kind of predatory cladoceran with eggs. Marek Miś from Poland.

Files were published under CC BY 4.0 license.