Winners - Prizes - Rules - Entries

Specimen Image Contest Winners

Judge's Note from Bob:
Judging the Shop's specimen image contest proved to be a much more difficult task than I thought when I launched it. Of the over one-hundred images entered, some were so-so, and some were pretty good, but there were many more outstanding and excellent images entered than I anticipated. I hate to admit this, but I played musical chairs with over twenty images for a week during the judging. Next time I think I'll employ a panel of judges and may also provide a deeper prize pool through more places. However, this time around, here's my final evaluation and the winners:

First Place
Autunite from Bric Colme', Cuneo, Italy
Photomicrograph by Roberto Bracco

Roberto collected this specimen in 1989 at an abandoned uranium prospect. Autunite is in the tetragonal crystal system, and is a soft, heavy mineral with perfect cleavage. It is strongly radioactive and an important ore of uranium. This image is a Microtek E6 scan by the Shop of a Cibachrome print. The crystals are highly magnified.

Needless to say, the aesthetics of this image really appealed to me, and Roberto did a masterful job of photographing this unusual and challenging subject. The nice print he sent as this entry didn't hurt Roberto's contest score either.

For his prize Roberto selected a suite of four zeolites and associated mineral specimens from the Deccan Traps formation around Bombay, India. This prize was provided by Bob's Rock Shop, and a special acknowledgment is due to Rick Kenyon of Good Earth Minerals Solutions, 6510 SE Foster Road, Portland, OR 97206 (503) 939-4367 for making me a facilitating deal during the '97 Tucson show on these and other fine specimens to be offered by the Shop as contest prizes.

Second Place
Aquamarine on Calcite from Skardu, Baltistand, Pakistan
Photograph by Cliff Vermont

Aquamarine is a transparent, blue variety of beryl which is well known as a gemstone. This crystal is about 1/2" diameter and 3" long. Beryl belongs to the hexagonal crystal system. It is found in granitic rocks and pegmatites where common beryl sometimes occurs as enormous crystals up to 10 meters long. Beryl is also found in high temperature hydrothermal deposits and less commonly in nepheline syenites, in calcite veins caused by metamorphic segregation, and in biotitic schists.

This image is a Microtek E6 scan by the Shop of a print from ISO 25 Kodak Royal Gold 35mm Film. It was shot at f22 with a Canon A-1 using an 80-200mm f/4 zoom and 2x extender and an 80A B&W multicoated filter. Lighting was overhead and from two sides (fill lamps), using one 150W A/C and two 50W DC NRG video lights (3200K). The background is blue paper, highlighted by the fill lamps.

Cliff related in his notes that he endeavored to bring out the clarity of the specimen and crystal faces with this image, and he did a fine job of that. I'm also sure Cliff's choice of a blue background was not coincidental. This image effectively illustrates use and integration of the background in creating a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts. A classic specimen image. Cliff supplied a nice print as his entry too.

For his prize Cliff selected a one-year subscription to the Stuart and Donna Wilensky Mineral Video. The Shop thanks Stuart Wilensky for his contribution of this prize. Stuart and Donna Wilensky Mineral Video, #203 Sullivan Street, PO Box 386, Wurtsboro, NY 12790 Phone: (914) 888-4411 Fax: (914) 888-2889

Third Place
Graphite from Harrisville, New York, USA
Photomicrograph by John A. Jaszczak

Graphite is a very soft mineral form of elemental carbon. It is very light, dimorphic with diamond, exhibits perfect cleavage and is classified in the hexagonal crystal system. Graphite is an excellent conductor of electricity. It has many industrial uses including electrodes, lubricants, high fusion refractories and diaphragms, dyes and pencils.

This image is a Microtek E6 scan by the Shop of a print from Kodak TMX B&W 35mm film. This highly magnified image of a 1.2mm graphite crystal from Grouverneur Talc Company was photographed with an Olympus OM-2 using a 20mm Zuiko lens and 200mm bellows with micro-stand Equipment. This photograph depicts a pronounced growth spiral (rotated with respect to the crystal shape), etched from gray-white calcite.

John did a fine job of photographing this unusual and visually intriguing specimen. I wouldn't have thought a B&W print could place in the Shop's contest, but here it is. Be sure and check out Dr. Jaszczak's Graphite Page for just about everything you ever wanted to know about graphite.

For his prize John selected a one-year subscription to the Australian Journal of Mineralogy, a joint publication of the State Mineralogical Societies in Australia. The Shop thanks Dermot Henry,, editor, for his contribution of this prize. The Australian Journal of Mineralogy, c/o Department of Mineralogy, Museum of Victoria, PO Box 666E, Melbourne Vic. 3001. Australia Phone: 61 3 9669 9892 Fax: 61 3 9663 3669

Fourth Place
Fluorescent Salton Sea Halite on Branch
Photograph by Ed Johnson

Halite is sodium chloride, also known as rock salt. It belongs to the cubic (isometric) crystal system. It is a very light and soft mineral with perfect cleavage. It forms as a precipitate in sedimentary deposits caused by the evaporation of salt water in saline lakes. Halite is also formed by sublimation from volcanic exhalations. It is very important in human and animal diets and has been mined and traded since recorded history. It is also very important to industrial chemical processes and is used in the production of sodium, soda, hydrochloric acid and in food preservation.

Impurities can also cause halite to fluoresce under ultraviolet light. This image is a Microtek E6 scan by the Shop of a Kodachrome 64 35mm slide. This 30cm halite specimen from the Salton Sea, California is crystallized on a branch. It was photographed with a Pentax K1000 using two hand-held 6W UV shortwave lamps and a standard UV/haze filter, using a long exposure. This image differs from many depicting fluorescent minerals due to the recognizable subject, in contrast to the showy but amorphous blobs of light that are typical of fluorescent specimen images.

For his prize Ed chose a copy of L.R. Ream Publishing's recently released The Mineral Database 3.0. This software provides a fully searchable database of physical characteristics of over 3,800 minerals - from ablesonite to zykaite, this one's got 'em all! The Shop thanks Lanny Ream for the contribution of this prize. L.R. Ream Publishing, P.O. Box 2043, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83816-2043 Phone: (208) 664-2448

Fifth Place
Gypsum 'Starburst' from Oklahoma, USA
Photograph by Joe Lobell

Gypsum is a soft and light mineral in the monoclinic crystal system with perfect cleavage. It is a sedimentary evaporite mineral which forms by precipitation from saline waters and through alteration of anhydrite. While gypsum can occur as clear, transparent tabular crystals, often twinned, it also occurs as rosette-shaped aggregates which often incorporate grains of sand.

Joe collected this 2.5" specimen in 1994 from the Great Salt Plains of northwest Oklahoma. This image is a digital photograph taken with a Kodak DC120 digital camera. It was submitted as a JPEG format graphics file.

I'll confess I'm somewhat partial to desert roses, aggregations, concretions and other specimens of that ilk, and that predilection undoubtedly had some influence in my evaluation and selection of this image. However, Joe's image has a nice three dimensional quality that's almost stereo in effect which holds its own against stiff competition. This entry also demonstrates that often maligned digital cameras are capable of producing high quality specimen images for the web.

Joe selected the $150 credit for custom specimen mounting by the Sunnywood Collection as his prize. The Shop gives Bill and Elsie Stone of the Sunnywood Collection a special thanks for their contribution of this prize. The Sunnywood Collection, 12068 E. Amherst Place, Aurora, Colorado 80014 (By Appointment Only) Phone 9am - 6pm MST: (303) 368-7497 Fax: (303) 368-7497

Sixth Place
Fluorite on Galena from the Elmwood Mine
Photograph by Rick Green UC Minerals

Fluorite is a heavy, fragile, medium-hardness (4) mineral with perfect octahedral cleavage which is classified in the cubic (isometric) crystal system. Pure fluorite crystals are colorless and transparent but various impurities can contribute purple, blue, green, pink, yellow, green, and black coloration to crystals. "Fluorescence" is a term derived from fluorite, which sometimes fluoresces under ultraviolet light so strongly the effect is demonstrable in sunlight.

Galena is a very heavy, soft mineral with perfect cleavage which is also classified in the cubic (isometric) crystal system. Galena is lead sulfide and the primary ore of elemental lead, and is sometimes silver bearing. Galena crystals often occur as opaque, lead gray cubes with a metallic luster. It is a typical hydrothermal mineral which is often associated with fluorite and quartz.

This image was submitted as a JPEG format graphics file. This 2 x 5cm specimen of fluorite on iridescent galena is from the Elmwood Mine, Smith County, Tennessee. It is currently in the collection of M. Spencer, Brooklyn, New York.

This specimen was photographed using a Minolta 450SI, with a 80A filter and regular incandescent lights. The software used to scan the images was a combination of PhotoShop v3.0 and Paintshop Pro v4.12. The prints were scanned with a UMAX Astra 1200S scanner. Rick used the contrasts between these associated minerals as well as shadow and light to good effect in this somewhat dramatic image.

For his prize, Rick selected a copy of OsoSoft's MineralLabel 4.5 specimen labeling software for Windows 3.1 and 95. The Shop thanks George Campbell for contributing this prize. OsoSoft, 2122 9th Street, Suite 202, Los Osos, CA 93402 Phone: (805) 528-1759 Fax: (805) 528-3074

Seventh Place
Phacops rana Trilobite from Ohio, USA
Photograph by Stuart Milliken

This image was submitted as a GIF format graphics file. Stuart relates, "This is a beautiful enrolled specimen of the common Devonian trilobite Phacops rana, from Ohio. The specimen was collected and prepared by Steve Anderson."

If one of these fossils came to life and crawled up your pants leg you might not consider it beautiful, but Stuart did an artistic job of rendering this specimen. I didn't think there was any way an image submitted in GIF format (in grayscale no less) could win a place in this contest, but here it is. Stuart selected 10 Rolls of Super HGII 35mm FujiFlim for his prize. The film prize was provided courtesy Bob's Rock Shop.

Eighth Place
Barite from Colorado, USA
Photograph by Shelley Powers

This Book Cliffs, Grand Junction, Colorado barite specimen measures 5.0 x 1.9cm.

This image was submitted as a JPEG format graphics file. Shelley relates, "This mineral sample reminds me more of a landscape than a sample. The long and very transparent barite prism rests parallel to the matrix. This crystal is in very good shape, and the photo captures the internal fractures and slight inclusion towards the tip. The other bladed crystals are also barite."

For this photo Shelley a Nikon N8008, with a 50mm macro Nikon lens at f32. She used one flash with a softbox to the left to provide general illumination at the back of the crystal, and a strong side and overhead light to illuminate the crystals. Exposure was 1/15 seconds." The lighting employed as well as the angle Shelley selected for this photograph, with the crystal transposed over both the matrix and the background, shows off its transparency to good effect.

As her prize Shelley selected a one-year subscription to ROCK&GEM Magazine. The Shop thanks Alicia Morris, Managing Editor,, for the contribution of this prize. ROCK&GEM Magazine, 4880 Market Street, Ventura, CA 93003 Phone: (805) 644-3824

Special Mention
"A Good Day Collecting"
Photograph by John Betts

I should say so, John... This image was submitted as a TIFF format graphics file.

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks for your participation to all who entered. A Special Thanks is also due to all of the prize sponsors who were instrumental in helping the Shop make this contest a success. All of the winning images and a number of the other entries will be featured in a new version of the Shop's freeware Mineral Specimen Screen Saver, as well as used here and there about the Shop in future projects.

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Bob Keller