M1 Wk2: Multiple Media and Interdisciplinary Practices

Forum: ‘Other Than’ Photography…

Having read Geological Science at University, much of my time, when not working in the field, was spent in labs using magnificent Leica microscopes.  These enabled me to draw the thin sections of rock (ground down to 30 microns) that I had prepared.  One aspect of this work was always rather magical: when viewing the thin section through a microscope using transmitted cross polarized light – a process used to help identify the various components of the rock .  Suddenly the rock sample would come to life, looking more like an ever-changing stained glass window.

Below is one of my thin section sketches from a sample of porphrytic rock under plane polarised light, collected from an area of Mull (the second largest island of the  Inner Hebrides, Scotland) that I was mapping, geologically, for my thesis.  Each sketch is 150mm in diameter and represents about 2mm of rock.  These would take about 10 hours to produce, using a 0.25mm draughtsmen pen.  Today, the process takes about 1/125 second, using an attached digital camera!

Thin Section - porphrytic sample

Sadly I do not have images of this rock under cross polarised light, but the Open University has a fantastic virtual microscope web site that shows many such samples with the user able to rotate the samples.  This Link is of a very similar rock type.  Be sure to rotate the disks of rock to see the changing colours found in the ‘between crossed polars‘ dynamic image.

Rather more impressive, and from one of my favourite parts of the UK (St. Austell, Cornwall) comes this thin section: Link

I always enjoy the interplay of transmitted light through objects and clearly my degree helped foster this interest.  Possibly as a result of this, for some time now I have been experimenting with photographing stained glass windows – initially rather crudely, but subsequently with much greater success, having applied some of the same fastidious attention to detail required in my microscopy.  It is fascinating when working under high magnification to see the usually hidden details of the glass (tiny vesicles and imperfections) as well as the precision of the stained glass window artist’s work.


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