The Creative Process of Stone Spirits

September 01, 2020  •  Leave a Comment


Stone Spirit #166Stone Spirit #166Stone Spirit #166 explores the exquisite beauty of the micro world and the common design elements found throughout creation. Stone Spirits is an intimate expression of Anima Mundi or Soul of the World as well as the ancient stone arts of Suseiki and Gongshi. Photography by Dennis W. Felty Northstar Gallery "Stone Spirits" explores the beauty of creation and the exquisite design, form, color and line found within the crystalline structure of stones, fossils and sea shells. The frozen structures of "Stone Spirits" call us to confront the dynamic and chaotic forces of creation and life itself. In these images one finds evidence of not only profound beauty but the apocalyptic forces of heat, light, pressure, change and ultimately transformation. These are inherent truths that not only define the process of creation but describes the fundamental human experience. Out of chaos and darkness comes light, beauty, transformation and rebirth.


The images in this study are macro and micro photographs of very small sections of stones, fossils and seashells. Some of the specimens are as small as  0.01 mm. The technology of the micro application uses a high resolution Nikon D850 digital camera mounted on a modified Durst 138S enlarger, using a range of Nikon & Mitutoyo microscope objectives, Nikon macro lenses and enlarging lenses.


Most of the stones are pietersite, petrified wood, agate, ammonite  or various other fossils. The macro photographs are presented 5 to 20 times larger than the subject and the micro images are presented 50 to 1,000 times larger than the subject.


The digital images are recorded in RAW or TIFF format and are processed in Photoshop CS2. The images are presented quite natural, the intense color captured in the stones are inherent aspects of the stones. The Schott fiber optic light source provides outstanding light quality at 3800 degrees. I do eliminate distracting small artifacts from the digital files in Photoshop. The following photos illustrate the set up as well as some of the stones and shells that serve as subjects.


Because the imaging is at the micro level the depth of focus is very shallow and the stones actually have depth with the micro structures being suspended in a clear crystalline substrate. To get high levels of resolution a stack focus process is used where from 20 to 100 images are made at slightly different focus points. A Cognisys Stackshot rail system is used to get precise micro changes in focus. The stack focused images are processed and combined in Zerene Stacker. 


The process of developing the technology to capture these images has been quite challenging and has been a difficult path of over 15 years. This path has not only been a path of technological evolution, it has also been a path leading to deeper understandings of the essence of the process that has caused their creation and our subsequent ability to celebrate their beauty. 

Micro Photography Set Up Nikon D400 Microscope and Nikon D850 CameraNikon D400 Microscope and Nikon D850 Camera Micro Photography Set Up Stone #122RSubject stone for Stone Spirits

Allan Walles has been been generous is sharing his knowledge and expertise in the technical aspects of extreme micro photography and optics. The Stone Spirits technical setup is referenced in Allan's Cage Project web site.


Stone Spirits set up in Allan Walles Cage Project



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