“The Complexity of Crystal Formation” by Rob Blanken

Crystal formation is a very complex and partly still misunderstood process. Crystals can take on very different shapes and if you examine them with the help of polarization filters, you will see the most diverse colors in addition to the special shapes. The variation is endless and therefore very fascinating and inspiring. Sometimes you see more or less vegetal shapes reminiscent of flowers, trees or even a tropical forest. Sometimes wide and intriguing, fairytale landscapes or abstract silhouettes that resemble birds, for example, form. Also very interesting are the completely abstract, more or less chaotic images in which you can really get lost.

Several variables play a role in the formation of crystals. However, the structure of crystals mainly depends on the molecule that crystallises. Amino acids, for example, crystallize completely differently than a molecule such as sulfur.

You can photograph the structure of crystals only with the help of polarization filters. In science, this property is used for material research using the polarization microscope. I myself mainly work with a high-magnification macro lens (2.5-5x), sometimes with an intermediate ring for a stronger magnification. I do the post-processing with Lightroom and it is limited.

Substances that I am currently mainly researching are the amino acids beta-alanine, l-glutamine and glycine. These amino acids form very organic and colorful crystals. That fits in well with my nature photography. By varying the concentration of the amino acids and the solvents I use, various shapes and colors are created. That is really a process of trying a lot. Often a session of several hours does not yield anything special, but sometimes that effort is rewarded with very special, unique images. It’s really a quest to create compelling and meaningful images and I’ve only just begun that journey.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

The complexity of the shapes and the colors.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

A somewhat less powerful magnification factor to create a little more complexity.

Rob Blanken shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Rob Blanken, Veenwouden, The Netherlands


Equipment and settings

Nikon D850 + Laowa 25mm F/2.8 2.5-5x (3x)
Macro focusing rail
LED panel, polarization filters (2x), retarder

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