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.
Crystal hunting 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.
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 multilayer 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 e.g. under the following link:
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 the pictures can be twofold:
The composition of the picture has to be aesthetic for every observer, but the character of the crystals is still ‘readable’ for a specialist in such way, that he can identify the mineral species.
Or the composition purely follows my creativity and it can be hard to realize that you are looking at a mineral.
Many of the pieces shown on the pictures are in my collection and found by myself. But there are of course many more Strahler 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.