This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This isn't a Cassini photo of a Saturn moon against an asteroids field or a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy. This beautiful alien landscape is right here on Earth, a microscopic world hidden inside a gemstone, photographed by Danny J. Sanchez. He told me about the process behind his work here.

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

I'm definitely a gadget-head. I even belong to a Facebook group dedicated to "gadgetry". It's in my blood to tinker and build, dissect and re-arrange. Putting together the rig that I use to photograph has been tedious and not inexpensive. But with a couple of private vendors, online friends around the world, Craigslist and a lot of Ebay, I've managed, not only to learn how to do this craziness, but to actually assemble something that can produce crisp and, hopefully, dynamic images.

Beyond liking rocks when I was young, my background in gems began in 2004 when I enrolled at the Gemological Institute of America to do their "Graduate Gemologist" course. As part of the course, some of the course materials had photos of what (for example) heat treated ruby looked like through the microscope. I'm not sure, exactly, what the first photo of gemstone inclusions that I saw was but I know that once I saw it, I was hooked. Soon after that, in 2006, I bought my first microscope and started this hobby in earnest.

My photomicrography began as a pursuit to capture those specific, individual gemstone inclusions. But as I worked more and more, trying to photograph these gems within gems, I realized that the real joy and real challenge was trying to capture the sense of space that these inclusions inhabit. Through the scope, it's truly an other worldly scene where scale is thrown out (of) the window and if I can capture that in a way that leaves people wondering if what they're looking at is real or not, or big or small, that image is a success.

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

This alien world is not a frame from Guardians of the Galaxy

Danny J. Sanchez is a Los Angeles-based photographer who loves gems and microphotography. He was hooked after reading the Photoatlas of Inclusions in Gemstones by Eduard Gübelin and John Koivula—so much that he made an expensive custom rig to take the best images possible.

You can follow Danny's work in Instagram and his website.


This is part of a series in which we are featuring futuristic, alien-looking or just plain awesome images of landscapes, cityscapes, and objects. If you are a photographer with such work, please drop me a line here.


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