One of the appeals of mineral collecting is the concept of treasure hunt. While the minerals that we look for do not fill the bill as regards monetary value, they are precious for their scientific significance. Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course, we are grateful that other mineral collectors are willing to pay for the specimens that we uncover. When we put an item up for auction, and two or more people bid on the piece, not only does it pay for the hobby, it makes for great entertainment.
The treasure hunt is not limited to the field, however. Reiner has found gold in the basement, for instance, when he cut open an ordinary-looking black rock. That was a nice surprise.
He has also discovered minerals while viewing the material through the microscope. When he detects something unusual for the locality, he sends off a sample for analysis to confirm the ID. We figure he has uncovered at least a dozen Ontario species that have not been previously reported in the scientific literature. That’s kind of exciting, to be able to contribute to the field of mineralogical study.
When Reiner started collecting, his focus was on “cabinet” specimens, that is, something that would fill the palm of your hand. Bigger is better, right? Well, to a point. Bigger is more expensive and more difficult to come by. But most importantly, bigger is bigger. It requires considerably less space to store a “thumbnail” specimen – that is a piece that will fit into a 1 ¼” cubed container.
Smaller, then, is better, in terms of space and expense. It also means, in many cases, that the crystals on a specimen will be in better shape than something that is larger, and therefore likely older (in geological terms) and has been exposed longer to and weathered by the forces of nature.
Smaller, though, means more difficult to see, especially if it is a micromount. That is a specimen that generally cannot be viewed with the unaided eye. Or the old-fart eye, like mine. That’s where the microscope and the macro photography come in. It’s also where I get the greatest charge out of the treasure hunt. What looks like an ordinary flat black rock is transformed into a wonderful swirl of growth habits.
When I do my photography work, I know that I am pointing the camera in the right direction and that the specimen is reasonably lit and in focus. After that, it’s all about luck. I have taken photography classes and have failed to grasp the concepts. I can say the words “depth of field” but do I really know what it means in terms of lighting and exposure? Not so much. Aperture setting? Well, that’s the hole that lets in the light, yes? But what do I do with that information? Beats me.
I am lucky that technology has come as far as it has and that cameras and photo-editing software are more or less idiot-proof. Without it, I would have missed out on any number of breath-taking “reveals” – the moments that would make me gasp and spontaneously smile at the wonder of nature.
Here are some of my favourites.
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Inspired by The Daily Post