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August 21, 2011


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Focal stacking software is good for dealing with the depth of focus issue; my Nikon software that goes with my Nikon digital scope can take a series of photos from different focal depths and turn them into a single crisp image. It's a nifty trick for three-dimensional samples.

Nice forams! I use the Helicon Focus software which does a good job of focus stacking images of rock cuttings, which are more or less the same scale as your sand samples. I find that stacks of between 4 and 6 images are usually sufficient for cuttings at 10x or 12x (binocular microscope magnification).

Callan and Howard - thanks for the comments and the encouragement! Helicon is the software I have been looking at, so I think that, once I can find the time, I will go ahead and give it a try.

Ooh, critters! I've never seen backlit photos of forams before, they're even more mysterious and beautiful.

In the mid-late '80s I spent some time on the white beaches of Florida (gulf region), didn't know anything about tiny shelly creatures, and undoubtedly tramped over thousands of these things. Ah, to go back and do over -- I'd be looking at that sand under a microscope, for sure!

beautiful pictures... a microscope and grains..i always feel a surge of excitement!

"And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,–
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!"

Beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you.

Hi Michael,

thanks for your interesting post on foraminifera in the sand.
Imaging of forams is not an easy task as tininess and thickness result in a quite limited depth of field. Furthermore internal structures shining through and surface features cannot be illustrated in just one 2-dimensional image.
You show the big guys unfortunately many forams are smaller and in the fraction of 100-400µm. In a full sample from the ocean bottom (not beach) tens or hundreds of such small ones come with a big one.

For my foraminifera.eu project we use:

SEM (see a Planorbulina image - you illustrated one - at http://www.foraminifera.eu/planorbulina-mediterranensis2-socotra.html) SEM only shows the surface.

Optical Imaging with stacking using Helicon Focus (works for us only sufficiently down to 400µm) (see e.g. a 30Mya old http://www.foraminifera.eu/nodosaria-vertebralis6-kobrow )

Drawings: if not altered from the original, we view it as state of the art (see e.g. http://www.foraminifera.eu/brady.php

Slicing and than imaging the flat surface: http://www.foraminifera.eu/nodosaria-intermittens4-kobrow.html (slicing of single specimens is time consuming, so we don't do it a lot)

3D modelling - not yet done and probably out of reach for us amateurs.

So our view is to use different imaging techniques for the different purposes, with realistic drawings as the best solution.

BTW beyond the technical issues of photographing is the whole story of foraminifera such as its recording in the sediment year per year the conditions of the world oceans. Thus forams are widely used in climate reconstruction, paleoenvironmental studies and oil/gas exploration.


Michael Hesemann
Foraminifera.eu Project
Hamburg, Germany

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