For the last 15 years, on and off, I have been collecting sand. The “off” times resulted from not having an answer to the question, ‘what do I do with all of this sand?’ I have tried various methods of displaying my sands as you can see below. Two-ounce bottles with overhead lighting being the best.
But the only people who could regularly view the display were my wife, the neighbors, some family and my dog, Zena, and she could care less. In fact, anything that draws attention away from her is not well tolerated.
Things got interesting again, however, when I decided to try my hand at getting pictures of my sands. At first, I tried a digital microscope and although it turned out to be an interesting exercise, the quality just wasn’t there. The edges, for example, are usually blurry, the definition is often lacking and the color is rarely true. These problems would even be too much for a Photoshop package. You can, however, get a good idea of what is lurking in your sand sample at 20x, as in this image of sand from Fintragh beach, but it is not suitable for framing.
My first foray into serious sand macrophotography began with my purchase of a used Nikon D70. The following picture was taken with that camera body and a 60mm 1:1 lens. Even though the sensor is only a 6.1MP it still provides a pretty good image. This photo is of one of the famous green sand beaches in Hawaii, Pocket Beach to be exact. The olivine, lava and coral make a striking image [at the head of this post - MW].
At any rate, this new photographic endeavor answered the big question, ‘what do I do with all of this sand?’ Answer, SHOOT IT.
There are a number of photographers who do outstanding sand photography. I would like to showcase several of them. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. This only reflects the photographers that have posted images on my website, Tropics of Sand. I will attempt to compare and contrast their styles. As you will see, the top photographers all have their own style. Over and above the camera equipment used, the thing that defines a photographer is their approach to getting the shot. All of the images that you will see below are unique to the photographer. I can tell a Heider photo from a Couette and a Sepp from a Kenney in the blink of an eye. I am sure that you will, too.
(click images to enlarge)
Leo Kenney: Large field, great clarity
Leo is a veteran of creating outstanding sand calendars and posters. He has a prodigious collection thanks to the fact that he has a legion of former students who dutifully send sands to him from their travels (cheater). Leo tends to zoom out a bit which produces a larger field than most. He uses a Canon 1-5x lens that allows him to get that clarity. Leo’s Picasa Web albums are here.
Siim Sepp: Great definition of full field shots and individual grains.
Siim also uses the Canon 1-5x lens although Siim does more close up work. He uses a full field for some of his photos but he also shows exploded views of individual grains of sand elements. Siim has a “how-to” on the mechanics of getting a sand photo on his website, Sand Atlas. On that site, he also provides geological information on sand composition that is very informative.
Clockwise from top left: Diamond Head, Hawaii; Sapphire crystals, Songe, Southern Tanzania; Zakynthos, Greece; Waddell Sea floor (-3500m), Antarctica (Globigerina forams, yellow circles); Center: Glass Beach, Kaui, Hawaii.
Alexander Heider: Tight shots, great color.
Herr Heider gets excellent close ups of his sands without sacrificing detail. As you can see in this series of sands from Ireland he is able to keep detail at close range. He also agonizes over white balance which gives very exacting color to his images. His tight shots and true color make his photos stand out.
Alain Couette: Soft shots, great detail.
Alain will not reveal what he uses as a lighting source but whatever it is, it gives his photos a “soft” look and it is also rich in detail. Alain has numerous images on his website, Arénophile ou Psammophile? He has sand pix plus images of forams that are very interesting. Alain has a distinctive style that I would recognize anywhere.
Clockwise from top left: Boracay Island, Angol, Philippines; Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan Island, Indonesia; Rio Grande do Norte, Fernando de Noronha Island, Brazil; Luzon island, Nasugbu, Philippines; Center: Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
Carla Lagendijk: Daylight shots, great variety and picture perfect color.
Carla is one of the pre-eminent sand photographers today. As you can see her shots are very rich in detail. This is not due to the lens but the fact she shoots her photos in daylight, the sun illuminating every nook and cranny which in turn provides outstanding definition. The other thing that separates Carla from the pack is her prodigious collection. She has sand from anywhere you can imagine which greatly increases the chances of having outstanding material to work with. Below are 4 shots that typify her style, and of course, no examination of Carla’s work would be complete without a sample of one of her “selections”. These are selected bits of coral, forams, shells, etc., from various sand samples. I hesitate to use more than one for the simple reason that they are too awesome. If you can look at these all day, why would you look at anything else?
Clockwise from top left: Bahia de Samana, Dominican Republic; Myrdal, Vik, Iceland (olivine and obsidian); Al Bustan, Oman; Brétignolles, France; Center: Enubuj Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands.
Kurt Meyer: Exploded views, contrasting backgrounds.
I now use a Nikon d1500 with the same 60mm lens. What I like to do with my photos is create an edge where heavy minerals or carbonate elements can be isolated from the main body of sand allowing for a better view of the individual grains. This has been dubbed the “black corner” technique. The 5100 has a 16.2 MP sensor that will enable you to enlarge photos without losing definition. Also, I use black or other colored glass as a background to provide contrast.
You can see more photos by all of the above photographers on tropicsofsand.com. I would love to add more images this weekend but Zena has other ideas.
[All images reproduced with the photographer’s permission, composite formats by MW.
Kurt is based in Pennsylvania, and writes that while he has been photographing sand for the last three years, he has collected it for “15 odd years.” Nothing odd about that as far as I’m concerned, but perhaps those years were odd in other ways, and sand collecting represented an opportunity for normality. Interestingly, he enjoys diving for samples. Anyway, thanks Kurt for all the effort in putting this together – and thanks to all the arenophile photographers who contributed to this piece.]