Photographing fossils

SUMMARY: Jean-Bernard Caron, Curator of invertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, describes the process for photographing flat, highly reflective fossils. (2:26)

Caron describes the problems of photographing flat, reflective fossils

"Burgess Shale fossils are usually flat and very reflective and it's often difficult to find details that are important for studies using normal techniques and I'm going to use different techniques in order to see different features of this animal."

First, using high angle light
DESCRIPTION: First, using high angle light

"First I'm going to take a picture with a very high angle of light. So this is the image you can see with a high angle light. You can see the animal with a lot of reflectivity. It's beautiful, it looks silver on a black matrix."

Using polarizing filters
DESCRIPTION: Using polarizing filters

"The next step is to use a polarizer filter on the light source and on the lens itself. This method is going to actually remove a lot of the shiny elements of the image. And this is useful when it comes to seeing some fine details of the sclerites."

Immersing the specimen in water
DESCRIPTION: Immersing the specimen in water

"The next stage is to do exactly the same thing, plunging the fossil under water. Putting it under water will also remove a lot of glare on the fossil, and often will bring elements that cannot be seen when the specimen is photographed dry. So let's plunge the fossil under water. So here you obtain a very crisp image, it is very reflective with a high angle of light. It's probably actually a better image under water right now than it was when the specimen was dry. I'm going to take a picture right now."

Immersing the specimen in water and using polarizing filters
DESCRIPTION: Immersing the specimen in water and using polarizing filters

"The last picture I will take of the fossil will be with a polarizer and with the specimen under water. So I'm once again going to rotate the circular polarizer under the lens and you can see the results here. So under water, using the polarizer, allows you to decrease the intensity of the black in the matrix and increase the intensity of the contrast in the fossils. So you can see a much nicer and crisp animal here."

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