“A blue/UV laser pointer was coupled into the handle of a cup, which guides the light and feeds it into a fluorescing liquid that lights up in green colors. The surrounding lab environment was darkened completely to highlight the effect. The image was taken in the lab at Leibniz-IPHT Jena.”

Tobias Tieß, Leibniz-IPHT, Germany


This image shows a number of optical phenomena, starting with a green laser (532-nm Nd:YAG) guided by a multimode silica optical fiber to a vial containing an organic dye


Sparkles from an engagement ring are visualized by a collimated supercontinuum laser. A piece of paper is used to trace out the beam in this long-exposure image. Small rainbow beams shoot away from the stoneproof that the dispersive design of the diamond is doing its job.”

— Benjamin Cromey, University of Arizona, USA


This image shows a number of optical phenomena, starting with a green laser (532-nm Nd:YAG) guided by a multimode silica optical fiber to a vial containing an organic dye


“The image shows a chunk of dust on a silicon substrate with a nanowire-like structure on the surfacewhich together resemble a meteorite falling on a forest. The surface is coated with chromium for better resolution in the scanning electron microscope (SEM).”

— Bingtao Gao, Univeristy of Iowa, USA


This photograph illustrates the combination of linear and nonlinear wave propagation in optics


“Tightly focused light from a microscope objective (right) forms an optical tweezer, able to trap and levitate a single silica nanoparticle in vacuum. Two electrodes apply an electric field that allows measurement of the particle’s charge and mass, turning the instrument into a very sensitive force detector. The purple glow on the left comes from a plasma generated in the vacuum chamber, to control the net charge of the particle down to the single-elementary-charge level.”

— Francesco F. Ricci, ICFO–Institute of Photonic Sciences, Spain


A multiplexing stream: The beams from three laser pointers of different wavelengths pass through a tank of water, and exit into a single water stream


“This SEM image is the center of a resolution test for optical lithography (ultraviolet) using vacuum contact. While the straight lines were lost at the submicron scale of the pattern’s center, a beautiful interference pattern was created.”

 Alexander C. Walhof, University of Iowa, USA


Water droplets on a flower adopt almost hemispherical shapes


“Birefringent flower: an arrangement of plastic flutes between a linear and a circular polarizer. The colors represent wavelength-dependent retardance paths that rotate the polarization orientation through different angles.”

— Samuel F. Pellicori, Pellicori Optical Consulting, USA


Beetles from all over the world regard themselves in the mirror and find that they are all left-handed circularly polarized


“Three spheres trapped in white light. Calculated intensity as particles are added reveals that each of the particles gives rise to a new power maximum near the place where the next particle settles.”

— Shai Maayani, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA


Top view of a soft-glass fiber preform while it is inside the furnace of a brand new 6-meter fiber fabrication draw tower facility (at DTU Fotonik)


“The spiral bow: as laser light scatters in a glass cylinder, the light rays split and bounce back and forth, making the long-term prediction of the rays’ trajectories very difficult.”

— Albetro A. Tufaile, Soft Matter Lab, EACH-USP, Brazil

For this year’s contest, OPN received 49 intriguing entries. We thank the panel of judges who provided insight on those images and helped select the winners: Mihaela Dinu, LGS Innovations, USA; Dmitry Dylov, Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, Russia; Alexandre Fong, TruTag Technologies, USA; Bob D. Guenther, Duke University, USA; Brooke Hester, Appalachian State University, USA; Nick Lambert, Precision Optical, USA; Giovanni Milione, NEC Laboratories America, USA; Arlene Smith, Avo Photonics Inc., USA; and Stephen R. Wilk, Xenon Corp., USA.

Visit for a gallery of all the submissions to this year’s After Image photo contest.