Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Last Month

     There's still time to send in your subscription for a chapter in Nature's Garden of Crystals. Two major US collectors and one from Europe just joined and images are coming in. How does the process work?

     Each author gets 15 full-page gallery pages for mineral photos and a page of introduction where they get to tell about their philosophy, biography, or the allure of particular minerals and localities. There will be a chapter on Hagendorf and another on the Elmwood mine. Many authors have chosen to have more than one chapter as they had much to say and needed more space.

     Images need to be large enough to print without pixellation. Photos which are 5 megabytes or more are safe candidates. Jpg or tiff formats accepted. Files can be sent by email attachment while text and captions may be in the body of the email or in a Word file. First layouts are generally available the next day so each author can design their order of presentation. Many have sent in their images first and fill-in the blank captions from the pdf that is sent containing their layout. Each chapter starts on a right-hand page so there is no overlap with another chapter. All chapters contain an even number of pages and therefore end on a right-hand page. Books will be sent to the printer in November and will be for sale at the Tucson Show.

     Chapters are less expensive than two pages in a major mineral magazine: $3500. Each paid subscriber is entitled to 50 copies of the hard-bound book. Please see the FAQs for general ideas, although some additional leeway is now offered compared with the beginning stages of the project. Note: Each blog post contains images which will also be in the book.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pre-Springfield Mineral Show Up-date

     Nature's Garden of Crystals continues to grow in strength. There are now 203 pages which are committed and Springfield and Denver will be the last two shows where new authors will be sought. Several chapters have completed layouts and several are in the works, while a few authors are using the summer to accumulate pictures. September and October will be busy, but the work is done as pictures come in. Changes as authors up-grade specimen images are usually made the same day received. The flavor of Nature's Garden of Crystals is particularly international and the authors are a Who's Who in minerals. Delivery of finished books is expected before Christmastime.
     The above photo of a Chinese axurite rose is an example of a change in the layout. This specimen's photo was submitted in April. The author had also obtained a multiple azurite rose which greatly surpassed this specimen in aesthetics. Recently, they submitted a new photo which was of the multiple azurite rose from the same locality. The replacement image is a high resolution photo that was sent as an attachment to an email and after downloading, the new photo was inserted into its proper place in only a few minutes and a new layout was immediately emailed to the author for their review. Remember to save your images as tif or raw format if that is an option with your camera.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nature's Garden of Crystals - Summer update

     May and June were activity filled months in the mineral world: major shows, field collecting, general travel, etc. In that time, nearly 200 pages of chapters in Nature's Garden of Crystals were committed by various authors. We were particularly pleased that two of the world's finest mineral photographers came on board. One is doing a retrospective of the finest European minerals he has ever photographed, while another photographer, also European will present an homage to his mineralogical mentors and has an expanded chapter featuring two important localities, also European. Continuing a theme of specific minerals, there will be a wonderful chapter on Chinese minerals. Several of the chapters are biographical illustrating great minerals that have come to their expanding collections and their particular impression of what these minerals have as the "it" factor. These are also very strong chapters. Many of the world's finest mineral specimens grace the pages, but there is a wealth of beautiful minerals which do not need to be the world's best to be loved and appreciated. The gamut of species representation is fairly wide with not much in the way of duplicating minerals from a particular locality. As such, Nature's Garden of Crystals is an intimate look at beautiful minerals from a wide variety of points of view: aesthetics, history, rarity, out of the ordinary, high quality. The time line for publication has moved forward, as is to be expected. It is possible to have a debut at Munich, but more than likely Tucson will be the extravaganza. Several of the authors who've signed on came in just the last few days and we area awaiting  their start on their chapters. About one half of the chapters have been put into layouts already so that the authors may see what shape their chapter may take. It's very important that authors can see their layouts early so that facing images may compliment each other, a flow through the chapter may be elegant, and the story each author wants to present is as interesting and as error-free as possible. One of the goals of Nature's Garden of Crystals is useful content to accompany nice images. You've heard this before, but I'm really excited about the direction this book has taken. In a time of economic uncertainty, dealers have recognized that Nature's Garden of Crystals offers a venue for bringing themselves in front of the world's mineral collectors by showcasing fine minerals and fine images. Mineral Collectors have also come froward to present their story about the minerals they have a passion for. The mixture is complementary, visually stimulating, and contains the textural content to make the book interesting, if not compelling. As an end note, it is important to realize that many of the authors' images were taken by the specimens' owners, although there is an excellent representation of European and US professional photographers. With the dramatic rise in the quality cameras available to the general public and the development of excellent photographic skills by a wide base of mineral collectors, the galleries of images being submitted are first-rate! This is an important development as the owners have a personal connection with their specimens and have the insight to produce fine images. The last time when new authors may join the Nature's Garden of Crystals project will be just after the Denver Show. Thank you all and stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nature's Garden of Crystals is a "GO".

Some of you have been wondering about Nature's Garden of Crystals: What is it about? When will I get to buy a copy? Good news! NGC has a full compliment of subscribers and will be printed before Tucson 2011. It is particularly gratifying to have so many European collections represented. There is still time for taking late subscriptions, but we are now in full steam ahead mode. Everyone who has submitted images has seen them in the initial layout and most have already reviewed their pages, but subscribers are busy getting more photos and thinking about what they will have for supporting text. I've been busy with all of the computer support issues so that the subscribers can focus on making a terrific presentation. You always hear this, but... I am very excited about this book as it is so full of content, not just pretty pictures - although most of the images are stunning beyond words. You can't have a better combination. Stay tuned.
Morganite and Kunzite, ~20 x 20 cm. Paprok, Afghanistan.
Photo courtesy Stuart Wilensky.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Carrying the Concept Further

Nature’s Garden of Crystals is a way to showcase minerals and mineral collections and/or a company image at an economical price (be sure to see additional photos at In particular, there are relatively few international outlets where mineral collectors and mineral dealers can have a concentrated presence except through magazine advertisements or costly books.  This is a stand-alone book which can outlive ordinary magazine promotions. This book provides the opportunity to showcase your collection or business with a level of intimacy with your peers or customers a single page cannot offer.  Each subscriber is entitled to 15 specimen pages and one introductory page at a price lower than that of only two full pages ads in a major mineral magazine. (See example below.) The organization is by chapter and you or your company will be the chapter author. The introductory page will be autobiographical and also provide two image areas on that page for your story or that of your company.

Each subscriber receives full computer support and they only have to submit the images and a description of the specimen. Additional text support is free and frequent and timely responses assure you can design a beautiful chapter.
The following is an example of the path your chapter might follow.

The cover is yet to be finalized, but it has been committed. The cover design will vary, but two images shown give an idea of the potential. The apatite that was in my chapter of  American Mineral Treasures, but the actual image might be a red tourmaline, an astonishing emerald, or a magnificent azurite, depending on the final choice. The person committed to the “second cover” has generously agreed to use a complimentary image to the first cover image, so the actual outside look may be much different from the example below.

(See cover concept from previous blog.)

Here is the chapter of a Hypothetical Subscriber: George Kunz. (As a man of the nineteenth century, his flowery writing style is that of his youth.)

Chance Encounters with

Great Minerals

By George Frederick Kunz

When I was nine years old, a pretty pebble changed my life. The turn and character of its patterns thrilled me. The shimmer and play of colors on its surface are burned in my memory still. As we get older, those objects which give us pleasure transform. It’s hard to resist the excitement of splashes of color, giant crystals thrust into our hands, or the rigorously unyielding geometrical forms of nature, but which are  sensational to the imagination.


Many of you know me from my chapters, Precious Stones, but I started out as a mineral enthusiast. As you read my writings, you’ll soon see that I believe fine minerals are as precious as cut gems. As vice-president of Tiffany’s, my normal customer seeks objects of decoration: fine rings, elegant silver, or golden objects d’art; but I also sell exquisite minerals. I want to share with you some of the riches of the mineral world which have come into my possession.
     My place of business is open to the public without reservation 9 AM – 5 PM Monday through Saturday: closed on major holidays: Union Square, New York, NY. Please feel free to contact us: (201) Union7-2346 or Online at 
Be sure to visit our booth at the next Paris Exposition!

Dr. Kunz’s chapter would, of course, be 16 pages long. In the example, he has varied the style of the pages and used a thumbnail image on one page to support, the major image. On one page, the group photo is actually three images. The individual images are close-ups, otherwise crystals in a distant view would have no impact.

Obviously, the layout can be somewhat flexible and there is some room for individual style in every chapter. Of course, the captions here are typed in a large font size for easy viewing on the computer screen and the actual captions may have up to 100 words in the final version. You may use more than 100 words in a caption, but the size of the image would be reduced at the expense of the text.
     There will be some “front matter” before the chapters begin as an introduction to crystals and their origins, but there will be no chemistry and physics to discourage the reader. There will be a page about granite pegmatites, oxidized zone minerals, massive sulfide and sulfide vein deposits, alpine clefts, etc. depending on the variety of minerals chosen by a subscriber. (I can send the granite pegmatite page now if you’d like to read it.) When the photos are laid out (QuarkXpress 8), the specimens can be tied in a list regarding mineral origin. That is, if an azurite and a cuprite are chosen by a subscriber, those images will be listed in the section explaining the formation of secondary ore deposit minerals. Relating the illustrations to the front chapter on mineral deposit formation will help make the book a useful reading and viewing experience, but keeping the major influence on visual appeal. Dr. Kunz’s examples are from pegmatites.

     Additionally, each illustrated specimen may have a special label available to the subscriber and the label may be further personalized by the specimen owner. A high resolution PhotoShop file with levels available will be provided for your convenience. Style and font may be changed to taste.

A subscription to Nature’s Garden of Crystals is only $3500. Additional pairs of pages are just $425. The need for pairs of pages is to keep the signature layouts the same. Each subscriber will get 50 copies of the book. There will also be 50 unbound chapters so that each subscriber will get individual sheets of their chapters.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cover Concept for Nature's Garden of Crystals

Tucson has come and gone, but with it's passing there are now enough subscribers to Nature's Garden of Crystals to start a layout for the book cover. The front cover may feature a fine American purple apatite crystal, which also debuted in my chapter in American Mineral Treasures. The final choice is yet to be determined. By nice coincidence, the back cover is balanced with a wonderful amethyst specimen from India. Although I do not have the Jeff Scovill transparency in hand of the apatite, I couldn't resist playing with a possible cover design, so I took a picture of the picture. Although not as sharp as the actual image will be, it gives a feeling for the direction and style of the book. Potential subscribers are from a veritable Who's Who of international mineral people.

Green is one of my favorite colors and I anxiously await all of the fine emeralds that will be in one chapter. The potential for some luscious crystals from China, and many other possible photos is going to assure this will be a wonderful book! If you check the latest changes to the FAQ section, you can see the way the book will be laid out.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Natures Garden of Crystals - FAQs

Nature's Garden of Crystals is a new book project which invites mineral dealers and mineral collectors to submit images of their choice to be published in a full-color, high quality, hardbound book. Scope and rationale for the Nature's Garden of Crystals project are found in a detailed description in the December 23, 2009 blog page:

Be sure to come back to this FAQ section as more questions are listed or as new information updates an answer.

1. Do my minerals need to be photographed by a professional?  No! Today's large format cameras are widely in use every day by mineral dealers and mineral collectors. There are also high quality small format cameras which can give thrilling sharp, in-focus, and deep depth of field results. 

1*. Do I need to know how to use PhotoShop? No! Free Expert PhotoShop service is included in your subscription.

1a. Is this book a good deal? Yes. If you were to have only two full-page advertisements or only four half-page ads in the popular mineral magazine, you'd have to pay more money than for a single subscription to Nature's Garden of Crystals. Each subscription is entitled to 15 full pages for specimens plus one full-page informational/biographical page. 

     It is also important to remember that after each magazine issue is replaced by the current issue, your advertisement in it would automatically become passéA book such as Nature's Garden of Crystals lives on and has a separate existence, while individual issues in a magazine series are soon buried together on the shelves.

Advertising managers have long advocated that a successful business should invest 6-10% of its operational budget into advertising and promotion. 

1b. Is the economy all wrong? No. While some mid-level mineral collectors are "economizing" truly fine minerals are still in demand. Nature's Garden of Crystals provides a new venue for showcasing fine mineral specimens in a format that will last.

1c. Are there themes for the book? Each chapter's content is governed by the wishes of the subscriber. One chapter will be about emeralds, one chapter may be about Chinese minerals, others will be about aesthetic minerals of all kinds, etc.

1d. Are illustrated specimens in demand? Yes. Fine mineral specimens which have been illustrated have become increasingly desirable. Please see the January 13 blog which shows a proposed specimen label to be issued with illustrated specimens. Format can vary with the specimen owner's wishes and may include the name of the current owner.

1e. Will my name be used in the book? Yes. Each one of the subscribers may be the author of their chapters and appear in the table of contents as the author. Each image will be captioned with the specimen owner's name if different than the subscriber.

2. How many subscriptions are there? The book is designed to have 8 subscribers, but the potential of the project is only limited by the deadline of the printer and the projected release date for the book.

3. When will the book appear at the newsstands? Delivery is tentatively scheduled before the Denver Show, but should be available before Munich. New subscriptions have pushed the deadline slightly into the future.

4. How many books will I get?  Each subscription will be entitled to 50 books delivered by common carrier or media mail at the publisher's convenience. Special shipping can be arranged.

5. What are the rules for submitting images? Nature's Garden of Crystals is an open invitation book where subscribers can showcase minerals they are proud of. The subscribers will select the images they want to have published. The images have to have high quality, but the choice of specimens is left to the subscriber. All submitted images should be digital. If you have film images you can have a lab convert your images to high resolution digital files for a small fee.

6. How big will the images be? The maximum printed image size will be 7 x 7 inches (about 17 x 17 cm).

7. What are high quality images? In simplest terms, all images in the book must look good. Submitted images should be in sharp focus, properly exposed, true color daylight balanced, pleasing contrast, featureless background (black, gray, or white preferred but other colors accepted which are tasteful), etc.
     If your specimen is taken with a 6 or more megapixel camera and if you use the full frame, you will have enough pixels as long as the file is kept as a tiff file (see explanation). If you have to crop the image, you loose pixels. If the image is cut by half from side to side and half by top to bottom the image is 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4 as large as you started.

Explanation: Computer screens have low resolution. Pictures of only a few kilobytes look reasonably good on the internet. Pictures on your home printer have higher resolution and may still look acceptable.  The primary limitation regarding image size is that the book's print resolution will be still higher: 350 ppi (= pixels per inch = 138 ppcm = pixels per centimeter). The image area in the book will be about 7 x 7 inches (about 17 x 17 cm). An image which fills the maximum image area would be 7 X 350 ppi by 7 X 350 ppi = 6 million pixels. As a dot can be equal a pixel, a digital image has to be 6 megapixels to be printed at 350 dpi. A 4.3 megapixel image will look at its best printed up to a size of  5 x 7 inches (12.5 x 17.78 cm). Remember that megapixels and megabytes are not the same and there is really no way to calculate how big an image can be from megabytes. If at all possible, when you download images from your memory card DO NOT save them as jpegs, save them as tiff format.  If you have a 10 megapixel camera, the only way to have 10 megapixel images is to save them as a tiff file. Downloading images as jpegs throws away pixels. The book printer tells me that they have a program which may "morph" a small image to larger size with the needed resolution, but I have not seen what the results look like. I have been exceptionally pleased what they do with normal images and I know they are going to do a good job with either format. If you have a large jpeg image, the resolution should be OK.

I might not have described this accurately enough, but you might want to see a website:

8. Can my images be processed? Yes. PhotoShop is a commonly used program to process images. Unfortunately, it can also be grossly misused. Over-increasing the contrast of an image makes it unusable. Similarly, Smart Sharpen or the like can not make up for original lack of focus. Increasing the size of an image file in PhotoShop will not improve the print resolution. The original image has to look good before it is processed by any photo manipulating program. It is also easy enough to improve the apparent transparency of a crystal, remove damage, etc. and the integrity of an image compared with the specimen is left to the subscriber's conscience as the publisher will ordinarily not have a chance to see the original specimens. Nonetheless, the person familiar with the published image may one day see your specimen and may note any discrepancies.

PhotoShop support is available as part of your subscription!

PhotoShop Hints: If you are creating a digital background, such as all black or all white, do NOT use the "paintbrush" tool or the "select all" tool: the results are horrible. Use the darken/lighten tool whenever possible. Magnify the image, choose shadows or highlights to work with, set the tool at 65% +/- hardness to avoid harsh edges, and do not use the tool to trace the image. Irregularities should stay with the image edge and tracing smooths them out and makes the effect obvious. Approach the edge of the specimen from the background with the darken/lighten tool and "pick away" at the background without darkening or lightening the edge of the specimen image. Release the left click function of the mouse frequently.

     Check your results constantly by reviewing the Image -> Adjustments -> Levels tool. Move the middle slider in "Levels" to lighten the image to its maximum so you can see what places that may have been missed by the darken/lighten tool. Click "cancel" and return to editing the image. (If you forget and click "OK", you can always use "control Z" or use the history menu to remove the effect.) When you save, always use "save as" and add "a", "b", "c", etc. at the end of the file name. Keep the original and subsequent versions of the image in case you want to start over at some point. Don't use Smart Sharpen, instead use Unsharp Mask at 100% and 1 pixel radius to avoid creating or accentuating artificial highlights. Remember, unwanted image processing effects are nearly impossible to fix.

9. What format should the images be in? Tiff will be the preferred format, but large jpegs are also an option. 

10. Will I get to see galley proofs? Yes. You will have two weeks to make comments and to approve the galley. We are both committed to the highest print quality possible, but trivial concerns can not delay the production schedule. After two weeks, the publisher will have the final decision over the reasonableness of comments and will relay prudent directives to the printer.

11. Are polished specimens permitted? Yes. Whether you have variscite, rhodonite, or agate slabs, they certainly need to be polished to be appreciated.

12. Is jewelry permitted? No. There is a separate book offered at the same rates. Please inquire.

13. Are fossils permitted? Technically some of the best calcite crystals in the world are reworked fossils, but they are permitted because they are crystals. No real fossils will be illustrated in Nature's Garden of Crystals. An independent fossil book will be available.

14. Must a mineral specimen be a crystal? No. A great gold nugget or a fine wire silver are among the many exceptions permitted.

15. Could I have a whole book about my collection? Yes. Please inquire.

16. Will this book be sold to the general mineral collecting public? Yes. The anticipated retail price will be $19.95

17. What is the deadline for becoming a subscriber? Commitments are being received now to assure a place in the book. Paid commitments should be agreed upon as soon as possible. Paid commitments on or after March 19, 2010 may be too late. The book will be submitted to the printer about May 1, 2010.

18. Will I have input into the book's design? Yes. You can personalize your chapter. Remember, the shortness of the production schedule means everything needs to be as simple as possible.

19. Is there an "About the subscriber" page in the book? Yes. Each subscriber may, at their choice, have a full page to tell who they are. One or two images may be submitted to support their text, but not of an individual specimen. A picture may show a portrait of the subscriber, their place of business, their mineral exhibit, or business logo.

20. How much is a subscription? A single subscription is $3500. Additional pages are available at $475 for each pair (2) images. The two image increment is designed to keep each chapter ending in the same position.

21. How many of my images will be used? Each subscription will get 15 individual specimen images. One image per page. Two images united into one image file will be counted as two images, but note the exceptions.

22. May I have multiple specimens in one image? No. The format is one mineral one caption per page. The exception is that a group of specimens of the same mineral from the same location may be used or a thumbnail photo may be added in support. Please inquire if you want to see an example page of the exceptions.

23. Do you accept meteorites? Yes. Ideally the meteorite should show an interesting feature or polished face and not be just an irregular rock.

24. Do you accept fluorescent minerals? Yes. The image of the fluorescing specimen should be in sharp focus.

25. Do subscribers get royalties? No. The remains of the press run will help to pay printing and other costs and that expectation has been figured into the low price of creating the book.

26. Do I retain the copyrights to my images? Yes. The subscribers are allowing the publication of their images in the one book, Nature's Garden of Crystals, and the publisher will not reuse them for another purpose.

27. May I buy extra copies of the book? Yes. Extra copies of the book may be purchased by subscribers at below wholesale.

28. Will specimen prices appear in the book? No. Nature's Garden of Crystals is a mineral appreciation book.

29. Does the specimen have to travel or will there be a site visit? No travel will be involved. The specimens will be described by the subscriber; including mineral name, locality as used at Mindat (as a standard), specimen dimensions (at least length and width), plus up to about two hundred words about the specimen. The number of words available for a caption will vary with the size of the image and the book editor will help with this feature.

30. How many copies will be printed? The press run is yet to be determined. About 2000 copies will be printed in the first print run. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Illustration Label for Nature's Garden of Crystals Specimens

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Books in the Works

This year will see 2 new books!  Nature's Garden of Crystals is described in the December 23 blog (Please scroll down for details). Already have lots of enthusiasm expressed and have a line up of beautiful images already. Will post example images as time rolls along. (Be sure to subscribe to this blog for updates.) Whether Tucson 2010 is better than expected or worse than expected, Nature's Garden of Crystals should reach it's minimum number of subscribers. (If business is good, optimism will prompt subscriptions, if business is poor, optimism will prompt subscriptions.) At any rate, advertising accelerates sales. Of course, figured specimens don't have to be for sale and the intent of the book is to provide an artistic venue about good specimens for public appreciation. All of the authors so far have opted for an aesthetic discussion of their minerals combined with the historical lore associated with the specimens. The content is very interesting! Publication is anticipated before the end of the year, 2010. Pre-orders will be accepted in November, 2010. Be sure to re-check up-dates of this blog.

Book 2: Collector's Guide to Granite Pegmatites was submitted to the publisher on December 8, 2009. The pre-layout was corrected in May, 2010. This book will also be available in December, 2010 and pre-orders will be accepted in November.

Up-coming Books

Minerals After Dark is being prepared and will appear in 2011. Research, writing, and photography is partly finished. This book is about collecting fluorescent minerals and will have an entirely new approach to this beautiful aspect of our hobby.  Be sure to re-check up-dates of this blog.

I had hoped to complete a new history in 2010. It is about the gem mining in the Newry-Rumford, Maine mining district, and which has the working title: Tourmaline and Goldfields of Maine: Newry's Secret. But funded projects must take precedence over labors of love (Besides, the companion volume - Minerals of Oxford County - Northern District will have a huge number of species to work on. Newry's Secret is about half way through writing. Research is about 80% completed.) This will have to be a 2012-2013 book. The new history of Mount Mica (I have a great title to be revealed later; over 400 pages written so far!) and the companion book Minerals of Oxford County - Eastern District is also scheduled for 2012-2013. The remaining books in the sequence George Howe: Founder of the Boy Scouts and the Campfire Girls: Norway, Maine (400 pages of text so far) and Minerals of Oxford County: Southern District will be finished in 2013-2014. (George Howe is the man who named Watermelon Tourmaline.)
In the immortal words of Robert Frost: "Miles to go before I sleep".