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How the pictures are made

the camera

All of the photos in the cut stones section were taken with a Nikon CoolPix 950 digital camera. (shown above) This is not the most modern model, but it offers a very-close-focus mode which is especially necessary for pictures of the opal. A home-made shutter release provides the jitter-free trigger that is necessary when taking long timed shots for the best depth of field.

The camera pictured above is mounted on a home-made stand, to steady it, and a small desk lamp with a 50 to 100 watt soft white bulb provides the only light - flash is only used when it is necessary to get an accurate color balance with some black base stones.

the stand

Due to the translucent qualities inherent to the opal, the background can make a significant difference in the appearance of the stones. For this reason, either a black velvet cloth or a square of bright white photo-paper was used.

This can make a very big difference in the appearance of the stones:

white on white white on black

For example, in the pictures above, the opal is translucent and some light can pass through the stones. In the case of the white background, the stones appear to have more of a 'honey' base color because the light is passing through the stones and then reflected back to the camera.

But the same stones with the almost non-reflective velvet background, appear much whiter because all of the light seen by the camera is coming from at, or near, the surface of the stones.

A note about technology and our technique

With modern digital cameras and computer software, it is possible to take a picture, then create a digital image that is only an enhanced version, that bears little resemblance to the original.

If only we were trying to make beautiful pictures, it would be easy to take liberties with lighting, colorization and final 'touch-up'.

But since we are offering these opals for individual sale, we have made every effort to render them as close as possible to their true colors and brilliance.

Each of the stones is placed on the stand, and a great deal of time is taken to find both the best background and position of the light to reveal the best faces of the stones.

The bright flakes of some stones can fool the automatic light meter of the camera. So great care is taken to point the 'spot meter' of the camera so that the mirror-like flakes do not distort the color balance. Multiple pictures are taken of some stones, in an effort to better demonstrate any directionality or lack thereof.

The pictures are then transferred from the camera to the computer (a Macintosh). The images come directly from the camera in "JPEG" format. At that point their resolution makes them far too large to present directly in any web page. The software, "Photoshop", is used to process them. They are cropped and then reduced in size.

The software is also used to remove dust and fibers from the background because they can be so distracting.

There always will be some loss or distortion of color due to the difference between the various computer monitors. This simply cannot be avoided. But we believe that in every way, these are the most honest pictures that can be taken of these stones.

Indeed, it is utterly impossible to capture the true beauty of the opal. The seductive change in color and pattern that can be only seen by moving the stones in different light conditions, is only for the eye of the beholder.

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Mac Made

Murray Willis