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Friday Slide Show: Two Rocks Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

13 April 2018

For a long time we've kept two rocks by our side. They have outlived our typewriters and computers and quite a few pens and pencils, too. One of them we acquired in 1973 and the other in 2003, in different centuries on different continents.

The thought of photographing them never really occurred to us until we did the series of macro shots of old tools. Because, frankly, they're just two rocks.

Unless you have a closer look.


In 1973 we traveled alone to Italy where we spent a few months living on the Ligurian coast not far from where our ancestors had emigrated.

We were not alone for long before we were swept up in the life of a small town, meeting all sorts of people from ancient ship captains who had navigated the Atlantic to a pioneering heart surgeon, from the poet father of a famous film director to the father of the Italian auto industry.

And every now and then one of them would have to go somewhere or do something and thought to invite us along.

The high school teacher L., one day, invited us to go to Carrara with him. He enjoyed photographing in the marble quarries on the day they were closed. He used the abstract, geometric images to inspire his class.

You could, unbelievably, drive up the mountain and walk right in, wandering around as long as you liked. No fence, no guard, nothing.

The quarries that provided Michelangelo with his marble. That had supplied ancient Rome.

It was blindingly bright there on that sunny day. On our way out, we picked up a small marble stone we thought we could pack in our luggage to bring home.


Three decades later, we got an eviction notice from the new owners of our flat, where we had lived for 28 years. We did a little math and quickly realized renting would cost more than buying. The trick was to get a large enough loan to buy in a superheated market.

By no small miracle and after getting outbid regularly on little tract boxes where we would not have been very happy, our realtor took us to a neglected listing (it had two bedrooms instead of the magic number three) where the desperate owner had just dropped the price $30,000.

We walked in to see the view of the ocean we often share with you here. And we knew we were onto something. When we saw the bunker downstairs (which was not a third bedroom), we were sold.

And somewhat to celebrate owning land in San Francisco, we picked a piece of red chert from the back yard to go along with our Carrara marble. To complete the circle.


To photograph our rocks, we waited until night so the room would be dark. Then we lit each palm-sized stone with the Flexi LED macro flash we recently reviewed. We turned the LEDs on to help us manually focus.

We mounted a Lensbaby Composer on our Olympus E-PL1 and screwed in two macro lenses, a +10 and +4.

Then we just looked for interesting angles. We could have done that all night.

They are both just small stones, but quite different worlds. The luminous marble from Europe seemed almost powdery, exhibiting a suppleness that seemed to dance. The chiseled chert, on the other hand, seemed to have been split by one catastrophe after another yet still survive.

We edited them in Lightroom Classic CC using the Adobe Neutral profile to start.

We thought we'd keep the two sets separate. We also thought we'd start them with a full view of each rock so you can see how small they really are.

Then you can get as lost as we got trying to discern the stories hidden in their cracks and veins.

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