Prize-winning macro photo takes us into the Martian-like world of plasmodial slime mold

Martian landscape by Irina Petrova Adamatzky: plasmodial slime mold, Lamproderma scintillans, populating the surface of a decomposing autumnal leaf
Martian landscape by Irina Petrova Adamatzky: plasmodial slime mold, Lamproderma scintillans, populating the surface of a decomposing autumnal leaf (Image credit: Irina Petrova Adamatzky)

Returning for the first time since 2019, the Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition 2023 showcases fascinating photographs that capture 'scientific phenomena happening all around us'.

The competition is made up of 5 categories, Astronomy, Behavior, Earth science and climatology, Ecology and environmental science, and Microimaging. Some seriously impressive images give viewers a glimpse into worlds that are all around us but often go unnoticed. The winning image is just that, capturing a scene that would usually be stepped over.

• See our guide for the best macro lenses

This year's grand prize winner was awarded to Irina Petrova Adamatzky for her image titled Martian Landscape, which presents viewers with a glimpse into a micro world. The photograph was taken using the Laowa 25mm f2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro lens on her Sony A7R IV and depicts 'steel-blue iridescence of the plasmodial slime mold, Lamproderma scintillans, populating the surface of a decomposing autumnal leaf'.

Microimaging category and overall prize winner Adamatzky states, “I unintentionally captured this scene while collecting samples of slime molds in a field near my home in Somerset,” Irina said. “I noticed them the evening before and had intended to gather samples to measure their electrical activity for our research. However, my attention was diverted by a simple autumn leaf that, although seemingly ordinary, held something intriguing within. I gathered it, along with my samples, and the following day I was amazed to discover what appeared to be another world within the confines of that unassuming leaf.”

Beacon of Crystals in a wild forest, shows micro crystals of two chemical combinations Beta Alanine and L Glutamine. Taken on a Sony A6600 attached a Magnus Opto MX21i LED trinocular microscope using a 3D-printed adapter (Image credit: Shyam Ulhas)

The runner-up for microimaging goes to Shyam Ulhas for their image titled Beacon of Crystals in a Wild Forest

The Western Veil Nebula  (Image credit: Imran Sultan)

The Astronomy category was dominated by photographer Imran Sultan, who was awarded both category winner and runner-up. The winning image titled The Western Veil Nebula is the result of "four hours of total imaging time and is a stack of 52 individual 300-second sub-exposures"

Nightly Elevator - a fish hitches a ride on a jellyfish. Taken with a Sony a7R III camera and a 90mm lens (Image credit: Dr Tom Shlesinger)

Dr. Tom Shlesinger wins the Behavior category for his image Nightly Elevator, which shows a small fish hitching a ride on a jellyfish as it returns to the surface of the ocean for food after sundown. Shlesinger also won the category, Ecology and Environmental Science, for an equally impressive underwater scene titled, Star of the Night. 

Star of the Night. (This photo was taken with a Sony a7R III camera and a 16-35mm lens) (Image credit: Dr Tom Shlesinger)

A Crack in Time by Dr Chia-Hsin (Wendy) Tsai

 A Crack in Time, Corinth Canal, Greece. Taken with a Nikon D5300 and 18-55mm lens (Image credit: Dr Chia-Hsin (Wendy) Tsai)

The Earth Science and Climatology category was won by Dr. Chia-Hsin (Wendy) Tsai, for her image A Crack in Time, which depicts 'showcasing normal faults within extensional tectonics setting'. The image shows a vast scene and the layers of earth, recently excavated representing millennia - check out the surveyor for scale! 

The Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition was launched in 2015 by the Royal Society’s journals to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the oldest continual scientific journal in the world. The full list of this year's winners can be found on the official webpage, along with insights from the judges and winners. 

See our guides for more information on the best telescopes for astrophotography, the waterproof camera, and the best microscopes

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Kalum Carter
Staff Writer

Kalum Carter is a UK-based photographer, writer, and photo editor. Kalum has been working as a freelance photographer for the best part of ten years, covering a wide range of assignments for well-known brands and publications in areas including portraiture, fashion, and documentary. 

Between commercial assignments, Kalum is currently working on a personal photography project exploring his connection to the Gower region of South Wales UK, as part of an MA in Photography from The University of West England.