It's a small world after all: Every year, Nikon hosts a contest for the best photos of tiny subjects. We picked the best of the top-20 2023 winners and a few honorable mentions to share with our readers. Prepare to shrink yourself to the size of an ant or smaller and enter a world of photomicrography.

Nikon just announced the winners of its 49th Small World Photomicrography Competition – an annual contest that judges pictures of things too small to see with the naked eye. Some images are recognizable, some are scary, and some look like abstract paintings, perfectly suitable for hanging on a wall.

The First Place winner of this year's competition is Hassanain Qambari and Jayden Dickson, with their picture of a rodent's optic nerve head at 20X magnification (masthead). Qambari and Dickson are researchers at Lions Eye Institute in Perth, Australia, studying diabetic retinopathy.

The detailed image, which includes the micron-sized retinal vasculature (green), contractile proteins (red), and astrocytes (yellow), was taken with a photographic technique called "image stacking." Technically speaking, the artist used focus stacking, combining several images of varying depths to make the overall picture equally sharp and crisp. They also employed fluorescence, which uses radiation and radioactive substances to alter the color of vessels and organs.

What follows is our picks of the most fascinating winners and a couple of honorable mentions we thought were cool.

If you want to see all of the 2023 entries, check out Nikon's Small World website. It has all 20 winners, honorable mentions, and images of distinction worth perusing – 86 photographs in all. It also has a vast archive of past competitions you could spend your whole day looking through.