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Another Esperite Photography Tutorial

8.2.2015

(Posted March 20, 2017) After a recent recurring discussion on the photography of Esperite, I posted an image I created several years ago. Someone asked how I did it, and because I documented what I did in an email discussion with Mark Cole, I am able to provide an almost step by step recreation of the process. I hope it is instructive and that the software doesn't change so quickly that it is already out of date. (I still use all the software involved, but there are newer versions.)

 

The first thing you need to do is buy a really great rock. This is easier said than done because these guys tend to be rather pricey! This one is a nice sized Esperite with Willemite, Clinohedrite, Hardystonite and Franklinite.

Now comes the hard part. Esperite does not like having its picture taken, and it tries to camouflage itself as willemite. In truth, the wavelengths for the yellow of Esperite and the green of Willemite are not particularly far apart, and the camera does not record objective colors exactly as you see them. Moreover, Esperite and Willemite are both intensely bright and far outshine the other two minerals, particularly the Hardystonite. For whatever reason, your brain can handle the difference in magnitude of the brightness far better than the camera does, so it takes work to create an image that matches what you actually see. So the plan was to take at least two exposures and stitch them together in Photoshop. For the first shot you expose for the Willemite and the Esperite. It may take a few exposures to get this one right, because it is easy to overexpose the minerals. You want something bright, but still has detail in all the bright areas. (Note that I lit these shots using a hand held SuperBright II while waving the light around to eliminate shadows. This causes even lighting, but it removes any sense of depth) It might end up looking like this:

 

For the Hardystonite exposure I took the picture as if it was a normal dark mineral. The rest of the image is incredibly overexposed….

 

Both of these images were taken in RAW format, and each required some work. For the Esperite image I adjust the color temperature (possibly as high as 50000K) and/or adjusted the tone curves to increase red levels (sliding the maximum red level to the left). These images are RAW, so this processing was done in Adobe Camera Raw. Nowadays I assume it could be done in Adobe Lightroom. This transformed the image into this:

 

This proves that the two minerals were captured as different colors, but it basically interpreted them as both being green. The color temperature and tone manipulation separated the colors and made the image look a lot more like the actual specimen. (That said, the yellow is too yellow and probably ought to be slightly bluer.)

 

Each of these images becomes a layer in a single Photoshop image. To bring them together, I add a layer mask to the Esperite layer. The mask erases parts of the image, allowing information from the layer beneath it (the Hardy layer) to shine through. (Mark's instruction mention erasing part of the upper image.  A layer mask is a better technique because you can turn it on and off or delete it or change it. In other words you can fix it if you mess up. That isn't so easy if you delete parts of the original image.) The masked image looks like this:

 

 Finally, you put them together by making all the layers visible, and this is what you get:

 

 

For the records, the photos were taken with a Nikon D7100 using a Nikon 18-55mm lens at 55mm at the ISO set to 160. The Hardystonite shot, which was actually a little more overexposed than was shown here was shot at f/14 for 5 seconds. The Esperite shot had a two second exposure. This doesn't really make sense, but you have to keep in mind that since I was hand holding the light, there is another variable and you cannot really compare lighting from shot to shot. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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