Capturing a gemstone inclusion and bringing it to life is a very intricate process, wherein many factors are involved, and any one not being properly handled can lead to a poorly rendered image.
The first step is finding an inclusion with the ability to take your breath away. After all, there are billions of gemstone inclusions to be photomicrographed (the technical term for a photo taken through a microscope). But the number of inclusions that can be both captured with great quality, and are aesthetically superb, are very few. Our current method of finding these top quality images is very simple: time and luck. Alex will look at approximately 100 gemstones at many angles with multiple lighting styles, to find a shot up to his standards. Even if a gemstone contains a beautiful inclusion, it still may not be photo-worthy due to issues such as optical density (the inclusion being too deep in the gem), or extra inclusions that ruin the aesthetic.
After an inclusion is found, staging and lighting the gemstone begins. The gemstone is moved around tediously to find an angle where the inclusion is in perfect perspective. Fiber optic wands are usually moved around at multiple angles to get the inclusion to “pop” with an excellent balance in lighting, contrast, and color saturation. Sometimes Alex can fiddle with the same gemstone for up to an hour, and anyone who works with gemstones knows how stressful and tedious this can be.
Once the positioning and lighting are properly staged, the shot can be taken. But before releasing the remote shutter, the room must be completely free of movement. Even the slightest tap of a finger on the desk holding the microscope will cause the shot to become a total blur. A remote shutter must be used, because the slightest movement of the camera will also blur the shot.
Finally! The photo can be taken. Oh, but not just one photo. Due to any microscope’s narrow field of vision, a special type of stacking software must be used to combine multiple images – sometimes over 100 – to produce one final image, so all parts of the inclusion(s) are in focus. In between each photo, the microscope must be very slightly adjusted in depth for each shot. Some individual shots will be aesthetically-beneficial to the final photomicrograph, and some won’t, so all images must be seen in unique combinations of stacks to find the most appealing set of photos.
A final image has been rendered. So we’re all set?! Well, almost…
We have our combined photomicrograph of perhaps two, ten, or over one hundred images. This is the foundation of our final image. Due to lighting restraints, angle restraints, and the issue of optical density, the colors and sharpness may need to be restored to bring back the inclusion’s true aesthetic. This is first done on an extremely sophisticated monitor with a color profile set to match our printer’s, to ensure a near-perfect to perfect match for our printed image.
Finally, the image is re-edited on a more common monitor to semi-match the colors of typical monitors and phones. This way, when you look at the image on your own phone or computer, it will look very similar to your printed artwork. Matching colors perfectly across monitors is basically impossible, even when the monitors are hooked up to the same computer, and even if they’re the same model of monitor, AND even when all of the monitors are color calibrated.
And that’s how you make Inclusion Art. Suffice it to say, this isn’t your typical point and shoot photography.