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PHOTOMICROGRAPHY is a big word for the little-known but widely used process of taking photographs through microscopes. The technique provides instant, precise information for disciplines as varied as biology, chemistry, pathology, medicine, forensics, biotechnology, and materials science. ``It's astonishing how many fields use photomicrography,'' says Philip C. Robinson, principal lecturer in the department of ceramic technology at Staffordshire Polytechnic, Stoke-on-Trent, England, and a judge at the ninth annual Polaroid International Instant Photomicrography Competition here.

The competition celebrates the beauty of the invisible realms visited by microscopists. Many of the 600 entries, which came from 15 countries, are the direct result of research, according to Barbara Hitchcock, one of the competition organizers. Some images are composites of photographs taken at various stages of research.

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Polaroid awarded $17,000 in prize money to 32 photomicrographers. Entries were judged on the basis of technical expertise and aesthetic value.

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