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Shooting Cannizzarite

Posted by Frank de Wit  
Frank de Wit December 08, 2010 10:31PM
A little about how I shot the photo of the day today

The problem was not the small crystals /or the specimen. On the contrary. The specimen is relatively flat and the crystals are nicely grown on the matrix. The problem for me was that the Cannizzarite is silvery black and highly reflective. Ergo: it is not the Cannizzarite's problem. It's my problem ;)
In the beginning all I was getting was completely black feathers instead of nice silvery feathers. So I asked Jean-Marc etc and was adviced to change the light-setup (see attached image). What I did for this picture is the following: I pointed two LED lights that Jean-Marc supplied to me, with diffusors, towards white cardboard. That reflects the light towards a simple plastic coffeecup that I wrapped around the specimen... So the diffused light is pointed indirectly to the specimen and is then again diffused by the white plastic. I cut the bottom out of the coffeecup, and that's where the Luminar is looking at the Cannizzarite ;-)
The rest of the setup is my default setup with Canon DSLR, bellows and Luminar 40mm. Remote controlled vibration-free from my laptop.

Cheers, Frank

By the way: there are still a lot of improvements possible with the picture and with my setup. Matteo, Jean-Marc, Stephan or Fred would be able to make a better picture for sure. I feel a beginner when I look at their superb images... A good picture of this specimen should show more silvery feathers...
open | download - cann-setup.jpg (50.6 KB)
Jeff Weissman December 09, 2010 02:39PM
Frank - great tips with the coffee cup, just make sure it isn't used, unless you want a nice sepia tone to your image! I have used a similar contraption, using stiff window shade material, rolled into a tube, and supported with an embroidery hoop. This is a great image, I have not seen cannizzarite so well crystallized myself, just the typical flat-lying material; but you are somewhat underexposed, as the shadows are all blocked up. When using heavy amounts of diffusion, the camera sensor can be fooled, and you should bracket exposures at least +/- 1 stop, sometimes 2, and pick the one that gives the best detail in the important areas. For a darker subject, you should not worry about blowing out the highlights in order to get details in the shadows. Another trick I've done is to "exposure stack" a series of images, take three images, one underexposed, one normal, and one over exposed, and combine the portions of each that retain detail.
Elmar Lackner December 09, 2010 03:58PM
Hello Frank,
nice pic. The double-light-diffusion is the right way for this reflecting beasts :)
Frank de Wit December 10, 2010 09:10AM
The "twinned" feather in the top right of the image is how it should be. A silvery feather with a teint of brown (not from the coffee ;) on it. You see the same good colors in the curled "flower" of Cannizzarite in the middle. The oiley structure on the crystals is exactly how it is. But I couldn't get rid of the black zones in the crystals. At one time I added focussed coldlight sources but that overexposed the specimen again and made all crystals black. The trick was to underexpose, which I did. What I will try next is to make a set of underexposed and overexposed images, and stack them. HeliconFocus will not like that. HF errors when it sees that the exposure of individual pictures is different, but I will then also stack it with CZP and see what happens. Thanks for the tip Jeff ! I will try it in the coming days and put the picture back here.

Cheers! Frank
Jeff Weissman December 10, 2010 02:22PM
Frank - It is very easy to exposure stack in photoshop, I do it with 3-4 images and wide brush strokes, as long as the images are lined up, no need for too much precision...
Frank de Wit December 10, 2010 02:31PM
I promised myself never ever to use Photoshop. And I never have. Feels good. There is enough silicon marketing in the world already ;)
I try to fix things, in advance, by changing the light or changing settings in my camera ; but not artificially afterwards.
But I really appreciate your help and thinking with me ; please keep it coming.
Today I have been, and will be, busy photographing some other specimens. Tomorrow, time&family permitting, I will reshoot the Canni.
Alfredo ordered me via email from Japan to be productive ; so I might do some overtime this weekend
Cheers! Frank

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/10/2010 02:32PM by Frank de Wit.
Jeff Weissman December 10, 2010 03:41PM
Frank - all the more impressive!
Frank de Wit December 10, 2010 08:46PM
Vincent just uploaded this one
superbe..... !
Zbynek Burival April 19, 2011 03:23PM
Instead of manually stacking couple exposures it is much better to properly (!) use some HDR SW, Photoshop CS5 is not bad. About no photoshoping: sorry Frank but camera does so many nasty things to your picture it really doesnt matter if you do or do not postprocess ;)
Robert Meyer May 11, 2011 03:37AM
Hi Frank,

Thanks for sharing your diffusion technique on this very nice image.

However, I think we fundamentally disagree on the use of Photoshop to correct, not enhance, a digital image. The idea that such corrections are artificial is absolutely true in the sense that all images are artificial representations of real objects. When you refer to silicon, you are perhaps referring to the fact that Photoshop is a computer application. Would it alter your opinion to know that the same latitude in correcting, altering, and enhancing images is available with print images from old style film media? Not only is incredible latitude available with such media, such latitude was commonly made use of by professional photographers or those who printed their own photographs.

One of the difficulties we have is that our hobby, mineralogy, is a science, but photography, the subject of this forum, is an art. We should not try to straddle that fence in thinking that we sully the scientific value of our images by not accepting them as-is from the stacking program. In the digital realm, your camera's firmware is making a myriad of decisions internally without your control on how to present your subject, a mineral specimen. One thing is surely true, while camera manufacturer's do attempt to make their cameras versatile, they did not have the subject of micro mineral photography in mind when they designed the camera. Micro mineral specimens are difficult subjects. Additionally, image stacking alone introduces a level of artificiality to the processed stack that can hardly be compared to even the most egregious traditional correction methods. You are taking a stack of individual images and stitching them together into an artificially flattened composite image, which often suffers from color shift, over averaging, and other odd aberrations of the stacking process.

Additionally, there is the matter of electronic versions of the images, and how they are viewed on a variety of monitors. How do you know that your monitor is color true? While you cannot guarantee that people viewing your images will have calibrated monitors and thus are seeing the same thing you intended them to see, you can indeed calibrate your own monitor and make sure that at least you are seeing the image accurately. How? Well, that is one of the features of Photoshop.

Additionally, what do you do when your finished image differs from what you intended, which is presumably an accurate interpretation of your subject? (Contrast that with a scientifically accurate representation--not really possibly in the realm of the art of photography). Photoshop consists of a group of tools that can help you correct various parameters, such as white balance, overaveraging, and so forth, and then make your image a more accurate interpretation of the subject. With such tools, the numerous yellow-tinted images that one sees as you tour around the Mindat galleries, would actually be more accurate interpretations of their original subjects.

Best regards,
Bob Meyer
Jeff Weissman May 11, 2011 07:33PM
The human eye is an incredible camera, with a very wide exposure latitude and very deep depth of field - neither film nor digital cameras can capture this range. Workers with film and photographic paper, myself included, have become adept in darkroom manipulation of images - just read Ansel Adams "Making of 40 Images" for how extensive this process can be. A natural extension of this darkroom manipulation is to do the same for digital images - dodging and burning, color correction, and in the case of resizing of images, sharpening. Use of focus stacking software and various means to achieve high dynamic range are also useful extensions of darkroom manipulations, all in the attempt, for scientific photography, to accurately capture what the eye sees, whether in a hand specimen, through a loupe, or in a microscope. I strongly object to image manipulation to add or subtract information from an image, as then this becomes "art", which we don't normally want in our mineral image galleries (except in the mineral art forum !).

For larger specimens, much of the work should be done outside of the camera – specimen selection and posing, lighting and background, angle of view, control of depth of field for specimen sharpness and background muting, etc. See Michael Bainbridge’s photos for excellent examples of traditional studio photography techniques taken into the digital realm.

For the case of microminerals, I for one would rather have a well defined, detailed in shadows and highlights image of a microcrystal together with its surrounding matrix, rather than blocked-up shadows, blown out highlights, and only a small portion of the entire field of view in focus. So give me image manipulation when this manipulation lets me get the details I want to present.
Jamey Swisher May 21, 2011 05:47AM
I hate to break the news to you, if you use digital cameras to shoot your images then you already have edited images! ALL digital images are edited even when shot in RAW. ALL cameras edit the image in the camera itself using the on board firmware and processors. Some more then others, some allow more control over what is done over others, etc. Also, unless using a FoveonX3 based sensor/camera, where as most all cameras use a Bayer based sensor, then you are completely altered and edited from the second you push the shutter button, sorry. ALL Bayer based sensors only capture one color per photosite/pixel of the three needed (RGB) to create the image, the on board software and processors then use special algorithms(which vary by make and model) to recreate/interpolate/make-up/guess at/etc. the other two colors needed using the surrounding photosites/pixels that captured the other colors. This leads to off colors and everything else because the data is being created from nothing. The FoveonX3 actually uses three micro layers of pixels/photosites, just like film uses three emulsion layers, to capture each of the three colors(RGB) for each pixel/photosite. But very few cameras have a Foveon sensor in them sadly, currently only Sigma brand cameras and a few very expensive Laboratory use cameras.

So there is NO such thing as an unedited nor pure photo when shooting digitally, period. Only if shooting film, but then you would also need to develop that film by hand because processors in the stores and shops also make corrections and add edit the images on the fly as well. This is why I shoot film as well as digital still and I develop my own negatives, scan them into the computer, and either print them myself on special Archival ink printers or send them out for development to a small handful of professional services that will actually develop the digital images exactly how they are when received with no alterations nor corrections, like WHCC for example.

So there is nothing wrong using photoshop to do what a film shooter would do in a darkroom. The problem arises when someone uses Photoshop, or any other editing program for that matter, to alter an image to make it look better then it does in real life.

Also, when shooting very reflective materials try using a circular polarizer on your lens and turn it to knock down or eliminate the reflections and such, works like a charm.

Registered Gemologist
Research Gemologist
Club President/Owner
Jolyon & Katya Ralph May 21, 2011 09:35AM
All very good advice. But using digital cameras is not doomed as Jamey's message might make you think. Most good cameras can output in 'raw' format which avoids the processing he discusses. As each group of four pixels corresponds to one red, one blue and two green pixels (usually) if you import the raw file into photoshop and shrink it by 50% you have a reasonably accurate image with each pixel being a good representation of the colour at that point on the real specimen, but at half the resolution.

Of course, saving as jpeg would destroy this perfect image anyway - you would have to save as a lossless format such as PNG24.

When you print your image it is converted from RGB to CMYK, for which conversions are not exact due to big differences between transmitted and reflected colours.

So, I would say not to worry about it. Let your camera process images, use photoshop if you need to, and upload them as jpeg. There is no such thing as a 'perfect image' and the end result (being interpreted by the human brain) is a complex analogue process anyway which differs from person to person.

If you are worrying too much about this it might take away the fun and enjoyment of photographing minerals - we can all learn tricks and skills to improve our photography, but don't try to look for some theoretical perfect level, it's not possible, and mostly irrelevant anyway.

Jamey Swisher May 30, 2011 05:05AM
Shooting in RAW does NOT always mean unaltered data! Many cameras still apply the camera defaults to the RAW files when it is opened in an image editing program like Photoshop, but all the unaltered data is there in the file you just have to go through and manually set everything single setting to zero/neutral. If you do not change the settings your image will and is altered. Also many image editing programs process a RAW image file during conversion with a preset set of editing parameters which in turn edits the image as well unless you zero/neutral them all out. And even then the RAW conversion software still has a specific set of algorithms it uses to convert the RAW files into a usable image there fore editing the image from its original state. The only way to have a truly unedited digital image is to shoot with the likes of a FoveonX3 sensor and then only view the RAW files in a viewer and not convert them to any other format, which would be the same as essentially viewing the developed negatives of a film camera. But even then you would need to use a software that applies NO default parameters to the image like most do. I believe Sigma Photo Pro has a setting for as shot in the pure RAW data and DCRAW also has switches that can be used to cause no parameters applied. But once converted from the RAW format things have become edited.

I am not meaning to doom digital or make folks think digital is doomed, that is placing words in my mouth/fingers, lol. I shoot digital and film both, but mainly digital now. What I am stating is just that folks expecting unedited images from digital are never going to get that. Those constantly downing anyone for editing an image, etc. In order to publish a pic on the net or have it printed the image is edited somewhere along the lines, period. Even most websites use GD, or another image handling software on the server side to handle uploaded images in in most cases this software even applies its own set of parameters and edits on the fly and/or during upload. Resize an image and it has now become edited. There is NO way around it, sorry. Even film photographers edit images folks, Ansel Adams spent hours upon hours in the darkroom doing everything from masking, to contrast enhancement, to sharpening, etc.

As for accurate colors coming from any non-specialized sensor cameras, you hit it correctly... "good representation", good being the key word here, not perfect nor identical, not totally accurate though as it is physically impossible due to the technical limitations of standard Bayer based sensors, many can get close, but none are technically accurate, just close or good representations. Even the court systems for the longest time denied the use of digital images as evidence due to the editing done, only film was allowed. Now, they have realized things are edited and the World has went digital, so they deal with and allow minor editing as that which is done in camera or in the conversion software with its programmed defaults. They just have modules that hook up to the digital cameras that prevent anything else and certify the image as actual with no major editing done and nothing critical changed.

I just get so sick of folks saying how they shoot without editing and slamming anyone who does edit anything, when they are still editing, just letting their camera's do the editing instead of by hand. But an apple is still an apple.

There is NOTHING wrong with editing an image if you stick to traditional methods. The problems arise when you start artificially enhancing the subject, not just because you do a simple edit. Any good and true professional photographer will tell you that editing is part of the workflow in digital imagery.

Images shot from digital cameras, especially Bayer based, and especially if resizing them, need a few things tweaked/edited. The Bayer based sensor works by using an AA(anti-aliasing) filter over the sensor, which essentially, to keep it simple, blurs the data to rid the moire pattern caused by the way the Bayer based sensor captures an image. The only exception to this that I am aware of are the Leica M series digitals which instead use a specially designed software algorithm built into the firmware of the camera to eliminate this moire pattern instead of using the image degrading AA filter. Another benefit of the Foveon, it needs no AA filter nor any algorithms as it does not suffer from the moire issues and on a pixel level is therefore far sharper then a Bayer sensor based image, which is why, especially when resizing, one really needs to apply a slight type of sharpening and local contrast enhancement to an image to recover what is lost due to hardware limitations or software limitations in the case of resizing to larger or smaller image sizes.

It just is not as cut and dry as many of you want to think, or maybe just wish to think, it is. At this point in time you could not even get an unedited film image unless you develop it yourself and just view the negatives. Otherwise the machine developers and printers do enhance and correct the images. They are devloped and printed on the same machines the digital ones are done on. ;)

Registered Gemologist
Research Gemologist
Club President/Owner
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