Podcast: Photomicrography of Gems, with Nathan Renfro

It’s Macro Photo Week at the Explora blog and you’ll find many helpful articles and videos about the tools, techniques, and practitioners of macro photography. On the podcast, however, we go deeper than macro, like 1000x deeper—our conversation is with geologist, gemologist, and microscopist Nathan Renfro, of the Gemological Institute of America. Renfro is a renowned photomicrographer, and his images of the interiors of gems, with their unique inclusions and imperfect perfections, are stunning color abstractions of the natural world. With Renfro we speak about the art, craft, and science of photomicrography—using microscopes to make photos—and how he documents the inner life of a stone.

Renfro got his start in gemology thanks to the collection of rocks and gems his grandfather, a miner from North Carolina, left to him. From this collection a fascination grew, ultimately taking him to GIA as a protégé of John Koivula, noted gemologist and author of the Photo Atlas of Gems series. Renfro himself has become one of the leading image makers in his field, and we discuss the tools and techniques he uses to create his work, including fiber optic lighting, focus stacking, and Differential Interference Contrast.

We also discuss the surprisingly simple cameras that he uses, as well as the adapters, filters, and apps that enable his wonderful creations. We ask about the advantages that mirrorless photography holds for his craft, about the commercial and scientific applications of his work, and how traditional photography with a standard zoom lens has improved his understanding of composition and color, thus benefiting his photomicrography. Join us for this exploration deep into microverses, which are as complex and unique as any place on Earth or beyond.

Guest: Nathan Renfro

Photograph © Nathan Renfro

Today’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast was produced using Audio-Technica microphones.

Amethyst © Nathan Renfro
Amethyst © Nathan Renfro
Arkansas Quartz © Nathan Renfro
Arkansas Quartz © Nathan Renfro
Blue Diamond © Nathan Renfro
Blue Diamond © Nathan Renfro
Chrysoprase © Nathan Renfro
Chrysoprase © Nathan Renfro
New South Wales Sapphire © Nathan Renfro
New South Wales Sapphire © Nathan Renfro
Greenland Diamond Trigons © Nathan Renfro
Greenland Diamond Trigons © Nathan Renfro
Topaz © Nathan Renfro
Topaz © Nathan Renfro
New South Wales Iris Agate © Nathan Renfro
New South Wales Iris Agate © Nathan Renfro
ZEISS microscope with Canon 6D DSLR © Nathan Renfro
ZEISS microscope with Canon 6D DSLR © Nathan Renfro

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Senior Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Shawn C Steiner

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