One of the problems with living in a fundamentally interesting, chaotic and wonderful universe, is that the closer you look the more amazing everything is. And yes, that's all very well and good, but it's so exhausting.

Take sand, for instance: mundane, boring sand. You might think it's just a load of eroded rock. Then you look closer, and discover a spectacular world as visually diverse as the night sky.

The American photographer Gary Greenberg has dedicated his life to photographing the amazing world of the very small. And his latest work - 'A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder' - is dedicated exclusively to examining the beauty of sand.


His images, taken under a high-powered light microscope, are astonishing, revealing the small shells, different coloured stones and shards of crystal that make up normal beach sand.

On his website a PR blurb says:

"For Greenberg, art as a doorway through which we can more deeply embrace nature. His mission is to reveal the secret beauty of the microscopic landscape that makes up our everyday world.

The miracles of nature are tangible, and they can be seen directly through the microscope. The magnificence of nature lies in its consciousness. When we commune with nature, we become conscious of our connection with the universe."


The book originally came out a few years ago, but has recently popped up again on sites like Laughing Squid and Metafilter. But we recommend heading over to Greenburg's website for the full gallery and to pick up a copy of the book.

Meanwhile his work continues - Greenburg says he recently photographed moon sand picked up and brought to Earth by the Apollo 11 mission. Stranger and even more beautiful images from his remarkable microscope are almost certainly still to come.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Carnivorous plant -- open trap of the aquatic carnivorous plant humped bladderwort (Utricularia gibba). Photo by Dr. Igor Siwanowicz, a neurobiologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus

  • Bat embryo -- this micrograph shows a black mastiff bat embryo (Molossus rufus), at the "Peek-a-boo" stage of development, when its wings have grown to cover its eyes. Photo by Dorit Hockman

  • Green algae -- this composite image shows a collection of single-cell freshwater algae, called Desmids. Photo by Dr. Igor Siwanowicz

  • Lily flower -- stained transverse section of the flower bud. Photo by Spike Walker

  • Mouse cells -- embryonic fibroblasts showing the actin filaments (red) and DNA (blue). Photo by Dr. Dylan Burnette

  • Brother bugs -- two box bugs, Gonocerus acuteangulatus, at just two hours old. Photo by Kurt Wirz

  • Phantom midge larva -- Chaoborus, also known as "Glassworm." Photo by Charles Krebs

  • Mouse tail -- with hair follicle stem cells. Photo by Dr. Yaron Fuchs

  • Head and legs of a caddisfly larva -- a European and North American genus of insects whose larvae live in fresh water, in gravel, stones or sand. Photo by Fabrice Parais

  • Paramecium -- a one-celled organism that lives in fresh water. Photo by Ralph Grimm