The aim of this project is to bring the hidden beauties of natural mineral crystals to a broader public. When developed into large scale high quality prints, these pictures can make a unique add-on to any place where people want to relax and feel comfortable. Many of the motives provoke associations – some suggestions are given in ‘The Cave’, but this is of course a very personal perception.
Another use of these motives lies in marketing, using the provoked associations to underline certain attributes of your products. If you are looking for specific associations it’s also possible to search for a respective mineral sample and set it in scene to achieve the desired effect.
Or ‘Strahlen’ – how it is called here in Switzerland – is a traditional alpine profession that dates back at least to the Roman age. Originally, large crystals of the mineral quartz – so called ‘Rock Crystals’ – were collected to cut, e.g., glasses, vases or jewelry from it. The beauty and perfection of those crystals fascinated everybody who had the luck to find them in their natural home – the deep cracks and caves in the alps. Once excavated from their dark birthplace and brought into the sun, the light reflected at the crystal faces radiated like the sun itself – german language describes this shining as ‘strahlen’.
The Greeks regarded those crystals as a kind of eternally frozen ice. Today we know that rock-crystals have in principle the same chemical composition as glass – but in contrary to this man-made product most of these crystals took several million years to grow!
After centuries of pure commercial use, the fascination of alpine crystals led to 2 new phenomena: Scientists started to intensively study minerals from the alps in the early 19th century to understand more about how they formed; and private collectors began to buy crystals from local Crystal Hunters. This increased interest brought also other minerals than ‘rock crystals’ into focus of the Crystal Hunters, even if some of such crystals are smaller than a grain of sand! Finally, with the help of microscopes, a whole new world of fascinating symmetries and colors of mineral crystals was discovered. Nevertheless, due to the high effort and experience that is required especially in high alpine terrain, Crystal Hunting remains the passion of a few.
THE TECHNOLOGY BEHIND THE PICTURES
By using modern optical microscopes, high resolution digital cameras
and special computer software it is nowadays possible to take pictures
of incredible depth of sharpness, even at high magnifications. This allows
to display structures of e.g. 1 millimeter as prints larger than 1 Meter
– in fact a magnification of 1000 times and more of the real crystal!
The pictures on this website show only naturally grown crystals in the
colors they display at sunlight. All crystal structures follow the rules of
crystallography – even if the pictures look like graphic design or technical
drawings – it’s all designed by mother earth.
For the technically interested, on the right is my current set-up:
A Zeiss discovery V-20 stereomicroscope with a 3rd photo tube,
to which I mount a Sony ILCE-7 ("alpha 7" with 24 MP).
The adapter is from LM-Scope (apochromatic). Camera remote
control is done via iPad. Almost all pictures are stack-shots,
i.e. a series of pictures done at equidistant focus steps.
This stack of pictures is computed into one single image using
a special software (currently Helicon-Pro).
I am a ‘Strahler’ as long as I can walk. I do not hunt crystals for commercial
purposes, but for my private collection and to understand more about the
science behind their nature. Only in case I find more than I need for my
collection, I give away pieces for sale or exchange. I am especially in love
with a wonderfully remote valley in the canton of Wallis in Switzerland –
the Binntal – which is world famous for its diversity of beautiful and rare
mineral species. And I was lucky to find many of them – as you can see
under the following links:
I always dreamed of making pictures of my own findings, and by this turning
them into something more than only a ‘piece of rock’. My philosophy behind
these pictures aims at fulfilling both – the composition of the picture has to
be aesthetic for every observer, but the character of the crystals must still be
‘readable’ for a specialist in such way, that he can identify the mineral species.
THE " MODELS"
Many of the pieces shown on the pictures are in my collection and found by myself. But there are of course many more Crystal Hunters and mineral collectors in the world, and some of them were so kind to lend me their ‘photo models’. Let me thank the following collectors (in alphabetic order):
Ate van der Burgt
Mineralien Stiftung André Gorsatt
and also all others that preferred to stay private.
All relevant info on the pieces can be seen when clicking on a picture in ‘The Cave’:
locality where it was found
field of view, i.e. the original size of the section put on picture (either horizontal or vertical, whatever is larger)
collector that owns the piece
A collection of excellent websites about Binntal and mineral collecting - Thanks a lot for your support: