Nikon has been running the Small World Competition for photomicrography since 1975 – the beauty and complexity of life seen through a light microscope. The competition is public. Since 2011, the company has added a video competition, Small World in Motion, where you can submit a film or a time-lapse series of digital photographs taken with a microscope.
In 2021, the Small World in Motion competition was won by Fabian J. Weston, who captured the microfauna in the intestines of termites. These microorganisms are responsible for digesting cellulose, which termites absorb by eating wood and other hard plants.
Weston filmed the video with a 1970s research microscope using polarized light. The photographer wanted to show how the symbiosis of termites and protists works, so that film viewers would understand what a gigantic, albeit invisible, role these animals play in our world. For filming, Weston created a special environment and carefully maintained its chemical composition, acidity and temperature: the protozoa are very sensitive to any changes.
“The biggest challenge in shooting was finding the right environment for these creatures,” Weston recalls. “I tried many methods, even tried to use my own saliva! They are very sensitive to oxygen, so I had to remove it as much as possible. It is very difficult, and it was necessary to work quickly. My video is the result of months of trial and error, research and perseverance. “
Protists are a very diverse and difficult to classify kingdom of unicellular organisms. “They are almost unknown to the general public, but they are the most numerous creatures on the planet,” Weston says of protists.
The winner of the competition especially emphasized that the Internet has made images of the microcosm easily accessible to everyone who is interested in this topic, and everyone can share their achievements. Fabian Weston hopes his video will draw attention to protists and inspire many young people to explore.