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2018 Image of the Year Award Spotlight: 1st Prize Winner Håkan Kvarnström Captures the Golden Ratio

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The golden ratio - IOTY Award winner

Are we looking at a distant galaxy? A star?

The answer: this striking image captured by Håkan Kvarnström is actually a small, 2 mm snail found at the bottom of a water bottle. But don’t worry, it wasn’t a bottle of drinking water. Instead, the water was collected from a local fish farm in Stockholm.

And while Håkan didn’t capture a star, his snail image is certainly the star of our 2018 Image of the Year (IOTY) European Life Science Light Microscopy Award. It earned first place in our annual competition to find the best in life science imaging.

Our judges were immediately captivated by the beautiful colors that give this award-winning image its galactic look.

Given that snails are usually brown, gray, or something in between, you may be wondering if the colors were artificially added in. But Håkan claims the colors are completely natural.

He explained,

“All the color you can see in the image is from autofluorescence. I haven't stained it in any way. It's just the way it appears under 400 nm light.”

Håkan captured the vibrant image colors using an Olympus BX51 fluorescence microscope. The dark blue is the snail, the red is from the algae, and the orange light is from cyanobacteria growing on the snail’s surface.

The spiral pattern is another standout feature that impressed the judges—and it’s one reason Håkan chose the image. Spiral patterns found in nature have always fascinated him, from microscopic creatures to cosmic phenomena.

He commented on the spiral,

“It’s a good example of the golden ratio, which appears everywhere in nature—from stars and galaxies down to the smallest of creatures.”

Håkan’s golden image is the culmination of a hobby that goes back to when he bought his first microscope as a teenager. Håkan finds beauty in microscopy as a hobby since he can prioritize producing images that are nice to look at—something that is secondary in research.

This is what our IOTY Award is all about—encouraging people to look at microscopy images in a different way. Rather than only focusing on interesting details from a research perspective, you get the opportunity to look at elements that make a microscope image beautiful.

We’re excited to see what beautiful images this year’s life science imaging competition will bring as we launch our first Global Image of the Year Award.

This year, participants get the chance to win global and regional prizes. To learn more about the 2019 IOTY Award prizes, jury members, and entry rules, visit

And if you need a little motivation to enter this year’s competition, Håkan has a tip:

“You can also create fabulous pictures by simply looking at things that are close to you. You don’t need to trek up Mount Everest or through Antarctica. The winning image could be in a drop of water, or perhaps for many researchers, on a forgotten hard drive!”

Be sure to read Håkan’s full story here and follow him on Instagram @micromundusphotography to inspire your own light microscopy masterpiece.

Related Content

Olympus Image of the Year Award 2019

2018 IOTY Second Place Award Spotlight

2018 IOTY Third Place Award Spotlight

Senior Marketing Project Manager

Ralf Schaefer is the Senior Marketing Project Manager in the Marketing Communications department at Olympus Scientific Solutions in Europe. After graduating from Hamburg University with a Diploma Degree in chemistry, he has been working in Marketing Communications in various technical environments for several agencies and other companies before joining Olympus in September 2012. As Manager in Marketing Communications, he has been driving and shaping the public visibility of the microscopy and industrial businesses in various projects and roles.

déc. 05 2019
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