Scientist and photographer Jeff Barton explores the mystical and colourful world of meteorites through his camera.
- Description: To photograph a magnified view of a thin section of meteorites.
- Duration: An ongoing project since 2006.
- Notes: Keep your camera steady using a tripod as focus is very crucial when shooting with a macro lens.
Being a science educator and a member of the non-profit Meteoritical Society, I have always been interested in meteorites. Photographing a magnified view of rocks or meteorites with a DSLR can be both fun and educational. One does not necessarily need a fancy microscope to make these images.
I have been making these photographs with different methods for several years and continue to document them for fun and to expand my meteorite collection.
I was very curious to see what rocks and meteorites looked like on the inside. I later learned that while there are similarities between rocks from Earth and those from space, there are also vast recognisable differences between the two.
After trying a few images with normal rocks, I switched completely to meteorites. Many of the meteorite photographs I have made remind me of stained glass windows or mosaic art pieces.
To start with, one needs to purchase a thin section of a meteorite that has been ground to a thickness of just 30 microns. These are easily available on various stores online like eBay. Scientifically, what you see in these pictures is the effect of a piece of meteorite slice enclosed between two linear polarisers against white light. As you rotate either of the filters, the colour effect of the meteorite changes. Keep rotating until everything except the crystals turn black. What you will finally see is the light underneath the meteorite slice that shines through the crystals of the subject.
One can make these images by using a microscope or with any camera that lets you shoot with a Macro lens. For some images, I used a Bowens Illumitran slide copier to control the camera-to-subject distance by supporting the camera with the bellows and adjusting the magnification. On the plain background, where a 35mm transparency would normally go, I placed the enclosed meteorite with polarising filters.
You can also make GIFs of these images. After every slight rotation of the filters, I make a picture of the meteorite and stitch the several exposure images into one animation movie using a free .GIF animation software. With such a project, it is best to let your imagination run wild.
I use a Pentax *ist DS DSLR with a petrographic microscope. I also use a Bowens Illumitran slide copier and two linear polarising filters.
Keep These In Mind When Shooting Extreme Macro Pictures
- Focus is Important: Whether you use the DSLR with the lightbox or a microscope, make sure your setup is extremely rigid.
- Use a Shutter-release Cable: This will prevent any camera shake in your photographs. Alternatively, you can also use your camera’s built-in self-timer.
- Experiment with Subjects: Try anything that is translucent—powdered paint, plastic. It will show wonderful variations of color and patterns against the light
To see more photographs by Jeff Barton, visit www.flickr.com/photos/chipdatajeffb/
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Better Photography.