You've most likely never seen an ant like this before: in an ultra-closeup, Lithuanian photographer Eugenijus Kavaliauskas snapped a shot of an ant's face that looks like a still from some fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings.
The picture has been honored as an 'Image of Distinction' in the 2022 Small World Photomicrography Competition run by Nikon, and it's easy to see why. The snap has also been attracting a lot of attention and plaudits over on Reddit.
The picture is a close-up of the mandibles and antennae of Camponotus – a common carpenter ant. They make their nests inside wood, mostly in forest environments, and snack on parts of dead insects, nectar, and honeydew released by aphids.
There is some clever cropping going on in this image. According to the Washington Post, the parts of the ant's face that look like glowing red eyes are in fact the bases of its antennae, while what appear to be yellow teeth are very small 'trigger' hairs that ants use to sense the surrounding environment.
The photo was actually snapped through a microscope at 5x magnification, with a reflected light technique used to really bring out the details of the visage of the ant.
As Kavaliauskas told the Washington Post, having tried his hand at photographing birds of prey he now focuses his attention on insects. You can see plenty of other fascinating examples of his talent and eye for detail on his Instagram page.
"I'm always looking for details, shadows, and unseen corners," Kavaliauskas told Insider.
"The main goal of photography is to be a discoverer. I am fascinated by the Creator's masterpieces and the opportunity to see God's designs."
Another 56 photos were also labeled as Images of Distinction by the competition judges, and they're all worth taking a look at – we've got macro images of mouse embryos, butterfly scales, dinosaur bones, and lots more.
The overall winner of the contest showed the embryonic hand of a Madagascar giant day gecko (Phelsuma grandis), captured by Grigorii Timin and Michel Milinkovitch from the University of Geneva in Switzerland.
"Each year, Nikon Small World receives an array of microscopic images that exhibit exemplary scientific technique and artistry," says Eric Flem, Communications and CRM Manager at Nikon Instruments.
"This year was no exception."
If you think you can get a shot as good as this one – or you would at least like to try – then you can already start entering submissions for the 2023 Small World competition.