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".