While Minerals are naturally occurring solids with specific chemical composition and crystalline structures, Rocks consist of one or more minerals. And while there are basically three types of rocks: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic, there are over 4,124 valid species of Minerals according to the International Mineral Association.
If you’re serious about photographing rocks & minerals, it’s highly recommended that a tripod be used; as one doesn’t usually think of rocks as “fuzzy.”
As a lapidary (interesting word that, since it applies to both the activity of cutting rocks as well as the person doing it) some years ago, I learned that wetting a cut rock gives you a fair approximation of how that rock will look polished. But of course, if you’re using flash, you don’t want to photograph it head on, since there’s an excellent chance the flash will be reflected back and wash out the picture. Also, it works better if you wet the slab with a damp cloth rather than the full water treatment. Different minerals absorb water at different rates, so be aware (and prepared) if it starts to dry out. Keeping in mind that different lighting conditions produce different results, you might want to check out your subject under full sun, open shade, cloudy, diffused sun, backlighting (for transparent / translucent material), etc. For the close-up work, a macro lens or macro setting is obviously the way to go, and as stated in the beginning, if you’re serious, you’ll be using a tripod, delayed timer, all that good stuff. I know you can do it; it ain’t that difficult.
A lot of my material was acquired at rock shops in the American S.W. (e.g. Moab, Ut.), especially stuff like Dinosaur bone, but don’t forget to consider such sources as E-bay, where, for example, some handsome Ocean Jasper can be seen (and purchased). So unless you have your own diamond trim saw, you’ll be better off with material in “slab” form rather than “rough.”
More from Warren Krupsaw
Warren Krupsaw, a one-time student (and house guest) of Ansel Adams is a nature photographer concentrating on landscape & detail. After participating in the first year of a new graduate program in Photography at M.I.T. with Minor White, he earned his M.F.A. in Photography under Harry Callahan at the R.I.S.D. in 1968.