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Spreading His Wings: IOTY 2020 Asia-Pacific Winner Shares the Beauty of the Microworld

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XinPei Zhang, the Asia-Pacific regional winner of the Olympus Global Image of the Year Award 2020

Every day we capture the beauty of the world with our eyes, but our 2020 Global Image of the Year (IOTY) winners know they can find beautiful things in a much smaller world. By using their love of microscopy to capture artistic details under a microscope, the winners captured our attention with their amazing works of art.

One of these winners was XinPei Zhang, an amateur photographer who took home the 2020 IOTY Asia-Pacific prize for a stunning image of scales collected from the wings of over 40 species of butterflies. We chatted with XinPei to learn more about his interest in photographing the beauty of the microworld.

XinPei Zhang, the Asia-Pacific regional winner of the Olympus Global Image of the Year Award 2020

XinPei Zhang, the Asia-Pacific regional winner of the Olympus Global Image of the Year Award 2020

Spreading His Wings as a Nature Photographer through Microscopy

XinPei comes from Ya’an, a city in the Sichuan province of China. It is a place full of green mountains and clear waters, making him captivated by nature. He said, “I wish more people paid attention to the natural environment and ecological protection. Only by protecting nature can we live a healthy and happy life.”

To inspire others to care about nature, XinPei did not choose a camera as a tool. Instead, he used an Olympus microscope that he had spent many years integrating to shoot. We asked what drew him to the microscope as an imaging device.

XinPei explained that the most fascinating aspect of microscopy is that people get to see the microworld invisible to the naked eyes. He hopes that viewing the world through the microscope can expand people's vision and understanding of life.

Microworld Projects: From Butterflies to Sand

One of his microworld projects was the award-winning image of butterfly scales, which started when his friends gave him many beautiful butterfly wing specimens. He thought if they were not properly preserved, it would be a great pity if they got moldy and damaged.

To preserve their beauty forever under a lens, he collected scales from more than 40 types of butterfly wings, photographed them through an Olympus microscope, and assembled them into a work of art. XinPei exclaimed, "In this process, I witnessed the wonder of the microworld and was amazed!”

Butterfly scales under a microscope

2020 Global IOTY Asia-Pacific regional winning image captured by XinPei Zhang. The image shows scales collected from different butterfly wings and assembled into a final work of art.

It is this work that helped XinPei win the Asia-Pacific regional prize of the Olympus Global Image of the Year Award 2020. This competition attracted professionals from more than 60 countries and regions with nearly 700 entries. XinPei was the first Chinese winner of the Asia-Pacific regional prize.

The regional award earned XinPei a meaningful prize―an Olympus CX23 upright microscope. Jin Kai of Olympus’ life science department presented the award to him.

“Olympus microscopes can be seen in many laboratories in China. Therefore, I am honored to have the opportunity to use this new Olympus microscope," XinPei said when trying out the Olympus CX23 microscope.

XinPei Zhang holds his prize microscope from Olympus’ Global Image of the Year Award 2020

Jin Kai of Olympus’ life science department (left) and XinPei Zhang (right) hold the 2020 IOTY regional prize: a CX23 upright microscope

When asked about the messaging behind the image, XinPei gladly answered, "I hope to show my son the magnificent microworld so that he can see the wonder of nature. At the same time, I want to convey the beauty under the microscope to more people, attracting them to nature."

This quote highlights the reason we started the Global IOTY Award―to view microscope images from a new perspective, appreciate their beauty, and share them with others.

During the interview, XinPei also passionately demonstrated his new image project of sand from all over the world. Under an Olympus microscope, the tiny gravel is magnified several times, shining like a gem. From this work, we can feel his love for life and art.

Sand under a microscope

Sand from Point Spencer, Alaska, captured under a microscope by XinPei Zhang

Enter the 2021 Global Image of the Year Contest

As XinPei said, microscopy provides a new perspective to observe the world, helping others appreciate the natural environment. We hope you’ll share your unique perspectives by entering your best images (up to three!) to our 2021 IOTY contest.

Happy imaging, and good luck!

Related Content

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Scientific Works of Art: Announcing the Winners of Our 2020 Global IOTY Award

Brains, Bugs, and Bacteria: Our Most Popular Microscope Images for September 2021

Staff Writer

Rebecca is a Staff Writer at Olympus Scientific Solutions. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Endicott College and writes about trends and technologies in science and industry. She works closely with Olympus engineers and scientists to write pieces about the latest laser scanning, super resolution, multiphoton, upright, stereo, and inverted microscope systems, as well as leading-edge optics, cameras, and software. Follow her work to learn about Olympus' latest for numerous applications, including cytology, pathology, education, and more.

Nov 04 2021
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