Feldspar and Quartz Crystals

Just started photographing small specimens. This is a far greater challenge than taking pictures of hand sized rocks and minerals. Although I am not happy with the shot below, it is interesting.

Feldspar and quartz are the two most common minerals on the planet. The photograph shows feldspar with its “blocky crystal habit” and smoky quartz, with its six sided crystal form. Feldspar doesn’t get much love because its color isn’t exciting and because it is so common.

A mineral’s outward crystal expression is the manifestation of its inward atomic structure. If we were to peer inside feldspar at high magnification, we would see that feldspar’s atoms were arranged in the same blocky pattern that is exhibited on the outside. Provided one important thing.

Conditions must be right for crystals to develop into the shape you see here. Under poorer conditions, a lack of room for example, feldspar crystals would not express themselves and this specimen would be just another lump of dun colored rock. Quartz is often associated with feldspar.

More good information here:


Poor, Poor Porphyritic

Every trade or hobby has difficult to pronounce words of art. Like porphyritic, an adjective describing large crystals in an otherwise fine grained rock. Pronounce it poor-fer-itic. The crystals don’t have to be overlarge or dramatic, just bigger than the groundmass or matrix that surrounds it. In my book I will have two examples, one quite pronounced, Chinese writing stone, and the other, andesite.

Difficult words act as roadblocks to learning. We stumble over them, and in recovering we try to regain our balance by moving on. Without learning. I am hoping, therefore, to retain interest in difficult words and concepts by including photographs of them.

This rock is causing me problems. It isn’t polished, so it looks less attractive  than it otherwise would. And the shadows are bad, although my new cameral setup can overcome that.  Perhaps I will  polish it at my lapidary club. Or perhaps I can put some oil on it to make it look slicker.

“Chinese Writing Stone Slab for Lapidary or Display - Chinese writing stone, or Chinese letter stone, is so named for it’s resemblance to Chinese writing characters. It is also know as Porphyry. Background is a dark greenish-black charcoal limestone matrix with Andalusite crystals - This Chinese Writing Rock form is from Australia.”


Gearing Up for Photos

My outdoor photography has been good enough to be regularly published in many different magazines. In fact, I earned more from photographs accompanying my last article than the text of the story itself. That was for a publication that paid for each photo, some magazines pay you nothing extra for your photography.

Indoor photography has always been a challenge, especially now when I am trying to take pictures of all the rocks and minerals I have sourced for my book. I bought a light box last year and it was and is very sad. Too small and too poorly lit. Light accidentally came in  from holes in the bottom. It folded up neatly but otherwise was essentially worthless.

Taking the plunge, I have ordered a more professional lightbox from B&H Photo out of New York. I hope to have it soon. I’ll share some test photos when I get some shots taken.  There’s supposed to be 150 LED lights inside the box, enough to brighten up even the darkest rock.

I previously used a motley collection of table lamps and natural light through a window. That didn’t work because every light bulb has a different strength and hue. Eliminating a shadow with one light added yellow or orange to the picture from the new lamp. The key to indoor photography. at least for product placement, seems to be uniformity in lighting and background. Maybe this new lightbox will get me to my goal.

Update! November 14, 2022

The box has arrived and I think it will work. The shot below was taken using a handheld iPhone. Photos with my good camera, my Canon, mounted to a tripod, should be even better.

Label Those Cables!

Sort out your spaghetti of charging and computer cables by labeling. These were done with some clear packaging tape, spare paper, and a Magic Marker.  No matter what method you choose, you’ll save time and frustration if you label your cables.

Rockhound Alert! Comments to BLM Needed Now!

BLM is considering opening the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and surrounding areas to casual collecting of rocks, gems, and minerals, as well as non-vertebrae fossils. This vast area in Southern Utah has been closed to collectors since 1996.

BLM needs your comments by November 30th. The following .pdf file gives you ways to comment electronically and by post. It also links to other valuable resources.

The Southern California Paleontological Society is at the forefront of the comment movement, having drafted an excellent letter supporting the opening of this rugged yet beautiful land.

Original letters  are strongly urged. I typed up a letter this morning and it is already in the mail. Here’s wishing you get involved, too. Thanks in advance!

Copy of my letter sent to BLM:

11/06/ 2018

669 S. Hwy 89A
Kanab, UT 84741
Attn: Matt Betenson

Re: GSENM-KEPA RMPs-EIS Vol. 1-508, Comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Kanab-Escalante Planning Area Draft Resource Management Plans and Environmental Impact Statement

To Whom It May Concern:

Hello, my name is Thomas Farley and I am an outdoor writer living in Las Vegas, Nevada. I support a decision to open up the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) and the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area to casual rock collecting.

The request for comments suggests that  proper identification of the subject be made so I am forced to use boilerplate in this paragraph.  Specifically, I am commenting on the “Management Actions incorporated in Alternative D specific to the Kanab- Escalante Planning Area listed under Record # 1050 and #1051 (in the Draft Resource Management Plans and Environmental Impact Statement), and the Management Actions incorporated in Alternative D specific to units of the Grand Staircase National Monument listed under Record # 1048 and #1049, which would allow casual collecting in designated and posted areas within the monument.”

As to my comments, I belong to several rock, gem, and mineral clubs, as well as two  prospecting clubs. I am currently writing a book on rockhounding for beginners in the Southwestern United States. Adventure Publications is my publisher and the book will be out in early 2020. In my writing for the book I’ve encountered countless rockhounds who are aggrieved with the constantly diminishing amount of public land to collect on. I would urge all planners in this matter to consider allowing casual collecting in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) and the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area (KEPA). These grounds have been closed for too long. Nearby Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada allows casual collecting of rocks and minerals and has suffered no ill effects. As land withdrawn from mineral claims, these kind of areas allow rockhounding without the worry of trespass and as such provide a stress free exploring experience.

Rockhounding is an enjoyable solo and family activity. Sadly, the hobby seems to be gentrifying as fewer and fewer young people participate in the hobby. I think these numbers would increase as ground open to collecting increases. As an adjunct to camping or even day trips,  rockhounding is a terrific pastime that encourages an appreciation for our public lands. It increases tourism and brings money to rural towns and villages.  I strongly advise the committee to allow casual collecting.

Best regards,

Thomas Farley
3250 S Town Center Drive Unit 2036
Las Vegas, NV 89135