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The Weather Doctor's Book Reviews
Many years ago, E. F. Schumacher coined the phrase: "Small is beautiful." While he referred to economics on a small scale, he could have easily been talking about the small in nature. Over the past few years, I have again marvelled at the beauty of snowflakes and ice crystals. Today, I have a new wondrous small beauty to "wow" over: sand grains. The beauty of these small objects has now been unveiled for us in Dr Gary Greenberg's stunning book: A Grain of Sand Nature's Secret Wonder.
A Grain of Sand is similar in style to The Snowflake: Winter's Secret Beauty by Dr Kenneth Libbrecht and Patricia Rasmussen. Both are works by scientists/artists who have developed microphotographic techniques for giving us a glimpse into Nature's smaller secrets. While we can see a single grain of sand or snowflake if we look close enough, bringing them into a larger format opens a surprising world of stunning beauty that is literally underfoot.
A Grain of Sand is perhaps a bit inaccurate as a title, for Greenberg takes us on a microscopic tour of the world through sand grains 235 pictures in all. And he doesn't just show us ocean beach sand. No, he gives us views of desert sand and volcanic sand: the sands of Hawaii and Tahiti, the Sahara and the Poles, all the continents.
To produce such stunning photographs, Dr Greenberg turned the attention of a microphotography technique he developed for biomedical research first to the sands of Maui, then to the sands of the world. The marvel of his camera technology is that it takes a series of images at different focal distances to provide a stunningly sharp, three-dimensional photograph of its subject. Thus, each grain stands out like a little jewel amongst its equally gem-like neighbors.
Greenberg keeps us from going into sensory overload by interspersing several essays describing the nature of sand: its color and texture, its shapes and patterns, its origins and movements, and its formation and transformation. In these informative essays, he tells us why sand below the waterline differs from sand in the dunes above (water versus wind erosion affects the shaping of the grains). He informs us that sand grains are not just "little brown rocks", but contain colorful minerals, pieces of living organisms, and often pollution though it is hard to see the transformed pollution as undesirable in these pictures. Greenberg also describes for us the camera assembly he used in the photography.
Greenberg sees the importance of linking science and art so that we see the beauty in the world, using images of nature to produce artistic works in many media. Though each photo in this book is of great beauty on its own, Greenberg has taken extra time in a number of the volume's photographs to rearrange the sand grains into a more artistic pattern and on occasion, he has produced several computer-generated art from a montage of the images.
I have been a fan of photographs and videos of the small world since my youth, watching blood flowing through veins and insects dwelling in flower tubes on the many nature shows. I have peered through the microscope lens to see what my eyes have missed. I have enjoyed the work of Bentley, Libbrecht, Nilsson, and Strache. Now I add Gary Greenberg and look forward to future works by this photographer/artist/scientist.
After reading A Grain of Sand Nature's Secret Wonder, I circulated the book among the members of my art group who marvelled at the beauty of Greenberg's photographs. This is a book that deserves a place on the bookshelves of anyone interested in art and nature, though I would imagine many copies will sit out on tables for more frequent browsing. I strongly recommend this book.
A Grain of Sand Nature's Secret Wonder by Dr Gary Greenberg,
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