Rolf Luetcke will show and discuss the amazing micro crystals he photographs at 7 p.m. at the Monday, April 8 meeting of the Sunsites Gem and Mineral Club in the Sunsites Community Center. His microphotographs vividly demonstrate the wondrous beauty of these tiny crystals. The public is invited to see some of the fascinating minerals he has found in Arizona.
Taking photos of minerals under the microscope is a process that takes a computer, microscope and microscope camera.
The system takes the images he sees under the microscope and transfers them to the lap-top computer where he can adjust the light intensity, angle and shot he wants to get.
Each photograph is made and then the microscope is refocused to make the next level sharp. This can take anywhere from a dozen to more than 30 photos at different levels of one crystal or crystal pocket. The stacking program now comes in and combines the images into one that is in focus from top to bottom. There are several things involved with the lighting. The most ideal lighting is with natural sunlight but he uses a high intensity light for the ease of adjustment. He has a fiber optic light but the adjustments of the lighting is too much trouble if not doing the photos professionally. There are a variety of methods one can use to get better photos, but it is a trade off between ease of photographing and quality.
The one advantage he finds with micro-mineral collecting is that one can still find great micro minerals at many of the old mine dumps in southeast Arizona.
Mr. Luetcke has an AA degree in biology from Santa Monica College in California. When he moved to Bisbee in 1971, he was introduced to the Geologist Richard Graeme who worked for the Phelps Dodge mine in Bisbee.
Graeme gave him a couple of bags of minerals to give to kids in a nature program he was doing and he was hooked.
A year later he started a mineral business in which he manufactured sample mineral collections with glued-in specimens and sold those over the Western U.S. He spent years and miles collecting in several states of the Southwest and went to hundreds of mines over that time. His vast knowledge of rocks and minerals was acquired by self teaching.
In 1986 he started a mineral shop with his wife Mary in St. David. They ran their store for 22 years and started a serious reference collection which now numbers nearly 2,000 species.
They still collect at many local Arizona mines.
About three years ago a dream came true with the first “stacking” programs for microphotography. Perfecting the process is still a work in progress.
Now retired, they spend their time collecting and photographing minerals.