I had a really fun photo assignment last month, photographing at the Royal Peacock Opal Mine in Nevada. This mine is a U-Dig operation where anybody can visit, buy a pass to dig in the mine, and hopefully uncover some amazing Opals.

These types of assignments are always fun, not only for what I get to photograph but also for the learning. The creation of Opals is absolutely fascinating, but rather than explain it myself, here is a quick explanation:

‘Opal is formed from a solution of silicon dioxide and water. As water runs down through the earth, it picks up silica from sandstone and carries this silica-rich solution into cracks and voids, caused by natural faults or decomposing fossils. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind a silica deposit. This cycle repeats over very long periods of time, and eventually, opal is formed.’ – Opals Down Under 

What was explained to me, and I may not recall exactly, but this silica solution enters into the wood that is buried and estimated to be 12 – 15 million years old, and that wood eventually becomes petrified. Once the moisture leaves the solution, it becomes an Opal.

I photographed this image at Red Rock Conservation Area, North of Las Vegas, about 6 weeks ago. I was zipping down the road from Mt. Charleston when I spotted the cactus starting to bloom. I guessed that I was about 1 week to early for full bloom, but I was not going to be here in a week, so I shot anyway.

I used a flash to fill in the shadows on the cactus and that worked great. But since it was 4 pm the light was not that great yet, so when I opened the image in Photoshop it looked like a basic snap. That’s where the fun begins. You get started and you never know where you are going in creating. Are these images ever DONE? No, they are abandoned when you are happy with the results.

I always bracket exposures so the first thing I did was HDR process it with the only intention to add drama to the clouds. Then I opened Topaz B&W Effects and used the Cerulean set to colorize the image. Once I got here I decided I had what I wanted and subsequently ‘abandoned’ this image to go start the process all over another. If you want to know about Topaz, here’s the link: http://www.topazlabs.com/aff/idevaffiliate.php?id=196

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