Making Micro-Crystal Art - Part 2 - See What I Got
Oct 04, 2020
In Micro-Crystal Art - Part 1- Growing Crystals, I briefly covered how I get the chemicals into a liquid form, which dries to form the crystals. The next step is taking the glass slides to my microscope to see what I got.
I should first divert to tell you about my laboratory setup. My girls are grown and out of the house. I use their bathroom as my crystal growing “lab”. The convenient running water to clean the slides before using and clean up afterward is needed. I also appreciate the ease of cleaning the tile floor and countertops in case I spill chemicals or break any of the glass slides or coverslips. When I was using a bunsen burner to melt my chemicals, the not “easily flammable environment” was imperative.
I also transformed one of the girls’ bedrooms into my art/science studio. Unfortunately, it has wall-to-wall carpeting, but I’ve covered much of it with plastic and added a large table for my fluid acrylic and jewelry making. I have a built-in desk for my microscope and computer and cabinets to hold supplies.
My Olympus BX 40 microscope has a 2x, 4x, 10x, and 20x power objective, along with a magnification changer so I can boostthe power easily. The scope is also set up with a polarized light condenser and trinocular head with a Sony 7R camera body and a remote shutter release gadget attached. I have a polarizing filter, a 1st order red wave plate, and some color filters that I can use to affect the crystals’ colors. Basically, I have the typical set-up for photographing
crystals with polarized light.
Of the three ways I create crystals, melting the chemical is the fastest. These crystals usually start to form within seconds. The next fastest method is dissolving the chemical in alcohol. The slowest is when I’ve dissolved the chemicals in water. In that case, I need to wait for the water to evaporate, leaving crystals on the slide. But once I have a dry slide with crystals, it’s off to my studio.
This is when my anticipation goes through the roof. It’s about a dozen steps from my “crystal lab” to my microscope. Every time I feel the excitement. I turn on the microscope, place one of the slides on the scope’s stage, and clamp it in position. Then I rotate a low power, usually the 2x objective, over the slide, look through the eyepieces, and bring the crystals into focus.
I have a system. I quickly move around the slide just to get a feel for how the crystals look. If I see any possible images, I’ll raise the power to 4x, start at one end of the slide and use a grid pattern to systematically move horizontally across the slide. Once I get to the end of the crystals, move down a smidgen and go back horizontally until again I run out of crystals. Move another smidgen down and scroll back through the slide the opposite way. Sometimes I’ll increase it to 10x to check something specific but usually, I’ll stay at the 4x for the first pass. I pay special attention to the crystals around the coverslip edges. Many times they change their structure and size at that junction. Also sometimes the liquid was not completely under the coverslip and crystals form without the constraints of the weight of the glass. Quite often they look different.
I get distracted sometimes when surveying. If I find a large cache of crystals that interest me, I’ll stop my surveying and start photographing them. I then have to get back on track but that's all part of the fun.
None of the crystals I grow have any intrinsic color. The color that I see, and you see in my art, are all created from the polarized light hitting the crystals. Not all crystals will exhibit colors with polarized light so of course, I don’t even try to crystalize them. But many do and from that list are the ones I use. I’ll rotate the polarizing filter and/or the 1st order red plate to change colors. I can add some color filters to affect the colors also.
I’ve been asked often what I’m looking for. The answer is always the same. Something that takes my breath away. I realize that’s completely subjective, nothing in my answer that allows anyone else to do it for me or be able to say, I think that is one she’ll like. Even after all these years, it is still a mystery why I fall madly in love with one image and not another. At most I can say, the image makes me happy and I feel it’s spirit.
Once I find that image, the real work begins. Fortunately, I love that aspect too.
Stay tuned for Part 3 - Photographing the crystals.
P.S. I ALWAYS love hearing from you. If you aren't following me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, please do. I post almost every day. Many times I have "Bragging Rights" Prize Contests where I ask for name suggestions or which new image should I put on my website. Comments and suggestions are always welcomed.
P.S.S. Did you know I also paint with acrylics? And I do both micro-crystal and acrylic commissions??? Visit my website to see what more I can do.