The Beauty of Imperfection: Danny Sanchezs Photos of Impure Gems


Usually, the purer the gems, the more valuable they are. This is not true for Danny Sanchez, who specializes in photographing the beautiful and market-price lessening inclusions. In order to find his subjects, he visits many gemstone fairs and consciously chooses the ones that dealers and potential buyers turn their backs on. For the latter, impure gems like that may be worth less or even nothing at all, but for a photographer such as Sanchez every one is a little treasure waiting to be discovered and captured in a photo. 🙂

biotite-in-Topaz© Danny Sanchez

muscovite-in-quartz-mm negative-pyramid-in-spinel-mm negative-spears-in-quartz-02-mm petroleum-in-quartz-01-mm pyrite-in-quartz-mm

© Danny Sanchez

These pictures require expensive and powerful equipment, a lot of time and hard work. Attempts to achieve the same results with common macro lenses, tripods and without focus-stacking are condemned to failure. In the following quote, the photographer briefly goes into the shooting process:

In microscopy there is little to no depth of field. For photomicrography, this presents tremendous difficulty. Luckily, there are some very helpful mechanisms to help with this problem.

Before anything else – lighting, lighting, lighting. Three continuous light sources, each with their own dual fiber optic light pipes, give me 6 finely focused, intensely bright “light guides”.

A motorized stepping rig. Macro photographers are familiar with linear focusing rigs – this is just a vertical version that can hold a lot more weight. With this, I move 0.025mm at a time and take a photo until I’ve covered the depth I’m looking for. That can be up to 150 photos but usually it’s around 80. Those of you who like math, 80 photos at 0.025mm steps is 2mm depth of field.

Stacking software. Specialized software that will take these 80+ images and render depth. I use Helicon Focus, but there are several fantastic options.

If you tasted blood and wish to see more photos, go visit Danny Sanchez’s website.

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