All those times you spent on the beach did you ever imagine that the particles you walked on were so breathtakingly beautiful? Discover what sand actually looks like through a digital microscope camera.
Professor Gary Greenburg’s work reveals to us that tiny grains of sand are actually colorful, delicate structures. You will be amazed at how each grain is so unique in terms of shape, size and color.
“It is incredible to think when you are walking on the beach you are standing on these tiny treasures,” said Professor Greenburg, who has a PhD in biomedical research from University College London. He views these extraordinary particles at a magnification of over 250 times, exposing their real shapes – fragments of crystals, tips of spiral shells, bits of coral, or crumbs of volcanic rock.
I find his photographs even more astonishing than close up shots of snowflakes. Even though each snowflake is unique, they all follow some sort of general pattern. You can easily recognize one in extreme close up photographs. But the sand particles just look like a random assortment of items you’d pick up at the beach, yet you can never tell they’re grains of sand.
The Professor is equally in awe of these structures. “Every time I look through my digital microscope camera I am fascinated by the complexity and individuality created by a combination of nature and the repeated tumbling of the surf on a beach,” he said.
It isn’t by accident that Prof Greenburg has managed to take such perfect photographs of sand. He spends hours looking at thousands of tiny rocks through a high-powered digital microscope camera. He sifts through them with acupuncture needles to find and arrange the most perfect specimens. Then he uses a painstaking technique to create his images.
“Extreme close up photography normally gives a very shallow depth of field so I had to develop a new process to make the pictures I wanted,” he said. “I take dozens of pictures at different points of focus then combine them using software to produce my images. Although the pictures look simple each grain of sand can take hours to photograph in a way that I am happy with.”
According to a Huffington Post report, Greenburg started taking photos of sand through his microscope 12 years ago. “I am still fascinated looking at sand, and each beach is different, and always a surprise,” he said. “The reason I focus on sand is to show people how ordinary things are truly extraordinary when you look from a new point of view.”
The beach nearest to the Professor’s lab is Haiku, Hawaii, but the pictures depict sand particles from all over the world. In the description of a photo of sand from a beach in Maui, he wrote: “The tip of a spiral shell has broken off and become a grain of sand. After being tumbled by action of the surf this spiral sand grain has become opalescent in character.” Another description reads: “Sand grains from Okinawa, Japan are made from the skeletons of single-celled forams that produce these beautiful little shells.”
Professor Greenburg is a photographer, inventor and scientist. Incidentally, he worked on the first Superman film, transforming human pancreatic cancer cells into the planet Krypton. You can take a look at all of his pictures on his website, sandgrains.com. Or, you could buy his book called ‘A Grain of Sand’, which is available on Amazon.
Photos © Peter Greenburg