THE CAMERA AS A SCIENTIFIC TOOL

As a geologist, I found that I was often asked why so many published photographs of rocks were of such poor quality.  At first I was affronted, but then I had to agree that there are indeed abundant examples of this. Geologists have traditionally taken their own photographs while working in the field. When I was in school in the early 1970s, a camera was considered an essential tool in the geologist’s field pack . It remains essential for documentation today. There is great merit to this practice, as a photograph can record information in often remote areas that is missed in the notebook. However, many of these photographs are personal, visual notes. Like all nonprofessional snapshots they are rarely of publication quality. At best, such photographs fail to engage; at worst, they confuse the reader. While certainly with the introduction of digital photography , today it is much easier to check your images and end up with a better product than was often attainable 20 years ago. However, it is the rare geologist that possesses a keen artistic eye.

Lisa chooses what to photograph based on visual interest. First, what outcrops or rock faces evoke her curiosity, and appeal to her sense of beauty? Second, does the rock illustrate a certain process or passage of the geological past, and third, can these two be combined to create an image that evokes a sense of awe and wonder?  By making sure she photographs rocks that are interesting to look at and learn about, we come away with a better product than either of us could produce independently.
-DAN V HARRIS-