Franklin, NJ Night Dig

June 2, 2012

The doors opened at 7:00 PM for registration.  They had some new specimens out for sale, and of course the usual mineralogical gifts and gear.

No, I didn't line up any real candid photos here;  I was just sort of passing the time waiting to dig. 

(Always, of course, after a good event you wish you'd taken more photos.)


8:00 PM, and here we go...

Scapolite from Sterling Hill - unusual color

Down the Trail
It's eight o'clock in the evening, and we're headed down.
Even now, after so many trips to this place, I still find this moment exciting.

This time I made sure to bring something more than a crummy digital camera.  It was time for some 35mm color film!   (Why would I choose film?  Have a look at Camera vs. Log for starters, and perhaps The Lost Frame...)  This wasn't just any film:  I got some Fuji Superia Xtra 800 and up-rated it two full stops, to 3200.   Yeah, so there's a bit of excess grain when you push it like that, but I say "grain is good".

By the way, that trail is steeper than it looks.




I guess it's timeless, or nostalgic, or something;  I can't quite describe it.  Going over a pile of rocks in Franklin with a UV light at night is almost surreal.  Something in you says "I need to be near that."  Who could have prepared you for this?  After a while you don't feel right unless you can be around these rocks. 

The evening air was cool, even a bit chilly.  The bright moon took away a bit from the glow of the rocks, but it had the advantage of making it easier to pick your way among the boulders.  That's no small thing, because you can pretty much guarantee one of your friends is going to call you over from about halfway across the dump (actually,  this time it was my turn to do that). 





Glowing Rocks, Part 1

I set my lamp on a rock and let it shine sideways.  I took this photo  hand-held at probably 1/30th of a second.   Maybe slower. 

These were some rocks I'd been working on;  there usually isn't this much willemite and calcite in one spot.  However, I didn't go out of my way here to find something cool to photograph. 

For a while I was contemplating just going around and being the photographer for the night,  but I wanted to collect!

There was quite a bit of the usual fluorescent calcite with willemite, although it took some work to find "pattern" pieces.  I also found some hydrozincite, and even a little piece of hardystonite.   We found some "crazy calcite", too.  I didn't even get the chance to ask what others were finding, but I bet they had some good stuff too. 

I stacked up a few finds and had a couple of fellow collectors hold their lamps to illuminate the pile with UV.  I managed to get 1/125th of a second shutter speed, which is actually pretty amazing.

Yep, it's grainy, but I'll take grain over digital "ISO noise" any day of the week. 


Glowing Rocks, Part 2
Hydrozincite - blue
Calcite - red
Willemite - green (sometimes appears yellow in photographs)


One collector drove all the way down from Massachusetts.  He was one of the guys holding a UV lamp for the photo you see above.  We all sort of took a break here from clambering around on the rock pile.

By the time the dig drew toward a close, the moon had risen pretty high in the sky.  Speaking of moon, look what I found as we were getting ready to pack up for the night...



And yes, I called my friends over from halfway across the dump for this one.

Well, maybe it's not quite a "moon-shaped" pod of fluorescent diopside, but there was a certain specimen in the museum collection called "Moon Over Miami", and this sort of made me think of it (even though the colors were different).  It's a pretty good-sized rock, too. 

Come to think of it:  just that day, someone had just gotten done telling me there was not really any fluorescent diopside on the Buckwheat.  I have to say, he had a point, though, because you usually don't find specimens there like the one shown above.



Not to make this another "I love film" article, but when I look at these pictures of fluorescent rocks taken with film, they remind me of illustrations from the older books such as Nature's Hidden Rainbows.  And that's a good thing. 

The above specimen is hydrozincite on calcite, making for a color combination that I never seem to get tired of. 


If you collect and you weren't at the night dig, you missed out on a fun time.

They have this dig twice a year, in the spring and in the fall.  It's definitely worth going.  Make sure you bring sturdy boots, a pair of safety goggles, a rock hammer, and of course, a short-wave UV lamp!


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