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Calico Jack

First Mazon Creek Fossil Hunt

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RandyB

Sounds like a successful 1st run :thumbsu:

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connorp

Make sure you triple check yourself for ticks, especially since you were in short sleeves. I was out there a few times in July/August and was in long sleeves, pants, tall socks, and gloves the whole time. I can take the heat, but not ticks. My friend wore a t-shirt and found 4 ticks on himself when he got home.

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Al Tahan

Nice to check that off your bucket list!! Nice post 

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FossilNerd

Nice! Thanks for the information on the area. It’s definitely on my “must visit” list. 

 

8 hours ago, Calico Jack said:

I'm prepping the concretions by throwing them in the freezer. However, I'd appreciate it if somebody could link me to a post on the proper treatment, or enlighten me below- both for my own knowledge and for other readers.

 

There are a lot of threads here regarding Mazon Creek, nodule/concretion splitting, etc., but here are a couple I found informative at some point or another. You may do a search and find more to your liking.

 

This is an ongoing thread about cracking open concretions. Sometimes you just need to take a hammer and whack it! :hammer01:

 

This is a more recent post asking about nodules/concretions in general. I think @Mark Kmiecik had some sound advice.

 

 

Hope this helps! 

 

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Jackson g

Nice, looks like a fun time. I agree with @connorp, always check for ticks after a long day of collecting, they can wind up in the most obscure places (maybe that's just my luck). Thanks for the report.

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Calico Jack

Thanks everyone for the advice! esp. @digit and @Mark Kmiecik. I've got the concretions soaking in a bucket and I'll start freezing them next week. Thus far I've been focused on cleaning up the half concretions I found. As of today, I think I've identified a couple of jellyfish specimens in addition to the fossils in my original post.


IMG_0074.thumb.jpeg.b58a2960ccd9cde8164b661ebf66368c.jpeg

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Mark Kmiecik

Nice Essexella ascherae  jellyfish. I recommend not cleaning Mazon Creek fossils beyond a light brushing under running water. Vinegar or other mild acids can be used to remove some of the calcite, but the acids will also attack the iron siderite which degrades the fossil itself. Some mechanical picking at heavy calcite deposits won't do as much damage as the acid and you'll never get it all removed anyway. I cleaned a few with acid in the first year that I collected and that was the last time. Since then a light scrub with a stiff hog bristle brush is the most I'll do. It's pretty much the same as coin collecting -- the more you clean it the less it's worth both scientifically and monetarily. 

 

And keep track of the number of freeze/thaw cycles. Once you get up around 25 you'll want to know exactly how many have happened and at that point you probably won't be able to remember and will wish you had written it down. It won't kill you if you don't know but it sure comes in handy.

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bigred97

Awesome first trip, Calico Jack! You did really well for a first time there. That worm is a really good one! I think it is a polychaete although I would like to look in my Mazon Creek fauna book at home to be sure. I have a flora and a fauna book, both by Jack Wittry, that are really helpful in identification. People on this forum are also really great at helping out.

 

I have never collected that area you went to, but would like to sometime. I have driven further down the road and parked in another lot, to walk south of the area you were in. I usually walk all the way down the path to the area just north of the bottom of the "L" of Monster Lake. But I think you can find awesome fossils anywhere you go. Nimravis has some good posts that show other nearby areas.

 

Mark Kmiecik used a phrase once that I won't forget, and it perfectly sums up that picture of you, and how I usually feel after a hard day out collecting - "Bruised and abused and grinning ear to ear." Welcome to the Mazon Creek club!  Chris

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bigred97

I checked in the book and I think that worm looks like a polychaete:  Fossundecima konecniorum, also called the Simple Jaw Worm. Shape and size look about right. If the picture was a little clearer the jaws would perhaps be visible, if they are present. With it having been pre--split, I suppose it could also be worn away. Nice find - I'm jealous!

 

I'm not sure about the other one - possibly a trail of some sort?

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Darktooth

You look like SwampThing!:P Congratulations on a nice hunt!

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smt126

I've always wanted to go in there hunting, but I always have kids in tow. I can tell you by the picture they would not be down lol. There is an esconi hunt this weekend if you join. I have to work and unfortunately will be missing it.

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digit

Indeed. If you have little ones in tow, heading out into the uneven, sloping scratchy underbrush swarming with skeeters and crawling with ticks (I make it sound so much fun :P) is probably not how you want to encourage your family to go out with you on fossil hunts. If you have older kids who realize there is another world beyond the edges of their devices and are up for a good "Easter egg hunt", then a trip to Mazonia-Braidwood during the spring just after the season opens and the ground is relatively bare would be a good option.

 

The ESCONI trips to the big mine tailings pile would provide the best (and easiest) experience to try to make a memorable collecting trip for the family. The trips never seem to coordinate with my visits to Chicago but one of these days the stars may align and we'll join ESCONI if only to experience a collecting trip with a bunch of like-minded souls to a place that is normally verboten.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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deutscheben

Thanks for the report, I always appreciate hearing from brave souls who venture out into the Mazonia brush when it's in full growth. Nice worm and jellyfish too!

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RJB

Darktooth beat me to it but yeah,, Swamp Thing.   A movie that came out in the 70's with the monster being half animal half plant.  

 

RB

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Calico Jack

@bigred97 @Mark Kmiecik thanks for the IDs! I can see where the jaws should be but they arent visible. Once, I've cracked a few concretions and have a little more material, I'm going to borrow some camera gear and take high contrast photos. I'll throw some astrophotography software at those, and maybe I'll be able to pick up traces of the jaws and other fine details.

 

@Darktooth @RJB lol I can definitely see the resemblance! 

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trilo
Quote

 

great to read !! love it ! sounds like you had an amazing hunt

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bigred97

@Calico Jack Astrophotography software? What is that? I'm always trying to improve my photos but I just have an iPhone. I recently bought a macro lens that seems to help but I'm interested in other ideas!

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Calico Jack

@bigred97 one of my other hobbies is astrophotography. Most of the work for it involves extracting extremely faint detail from digital images of galaxies, nebulae, etc. To that end, a lot of really powerful software has been developed. I'm hoping to apply the same techniques here. If I have any success, I'll try and replicate it in more affordable/user friendly platforms like photoshop. That way it will be more broadly useful.

 

Unfortunately, it'll almost certainly require DSLR camera or better to make this work (these algorithms usually require data in raw image format), but I'm going to experiment with my cell phone camera as well. I'll be sure to post a sort of "lab report" on TFF once I've finished!

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digit

With astrophotography you are generally stacking multiple images because there are so few photos making it halfway across the galaxy to the image sensor that they need really long images to show faint details. If you have an expensive telescope that can track the motion of your target, you can take hour long images but most folks have to take dozens of shorter duration photographs and use the software to align these (to remove the effects of motion) and then add up the faint images to produce a nice visible image that mimics a really long exposure.

 

I'd be really interested to hear if the astrophotography software manages to produce enhanced images of the often faint Mazon Creek fossils. In this case, there are no shortage of photons (assuming you are not photographing your concretions in a closet). ;) It is really the faint contrast that is trying to be emphasized. Because these concretions often record the trace of the fossil subject as much with relief as pigment/color, some have managed to get more visible images with the use of strong side lighting (something you may wish to experiment with). This could be accomplished with photos outdoors or a goose-neck desk lamp which might be able to be adjusted to good effect.

 

I'm not surprised that most image post-processing software prefers to use RAW files instead of JPG images. RAW images actually contain more information which is lost by (even lossless) jpeg compression. For those who think little of the hundreds of photos you now take and post daily :P, here's a brief explanation of what is going on inside digital cameras. There is an image sensor (which replaces the light-sensitive celluloid film of bygone days). This sensor is actually an array of incredibly tiny photocells (not entirely like solar cells that are ever more common). Each of these photo sensors represents a pixel (= "picture elements") and its function is to turn photons into a small voltage change--the more photons the bigger the voltage produced. This voltage is then "read" by other circuitry which includes what is call a ADC (analog to digital converter). This converts the voltage level into a binary number to be stored as the intensity (brightness) of that pixel. There are more details about color masks that allow these photo sensors to register red, green, and blue to make up a color image via an obscure process called de-mosaicing which is another difference in RAW files but beyond the immediate point here.

 

The real power of RAW files (and why I now shoot nothing but), lies in the analog to digital conversion. As the resultant digital information is stored in binary format (the basis of digital computers). The number of bits (binary digits) available for storage the more information (permutations) may be stored. JPG images can store no more than 8 bits of color in each of the 3 color channels (red/green/blue) for any pixel. This means the distinct shades of red (or green or blue) available are 28 = 256 (values 0-255). When you combine these 3 color channels you get 256 X 256 X 256 = 16,777,217 and over 16 million different colors are more than adequate (and more than our eyes can even distinguish). You might be surprised to learn that most image sensors in cameras have an ADC that can convert the analog voltage to a digital value with more than 8 bits. My Canon EOS camera contains an ADC that outputs pixel values with 14 bits meaning that each color channel how has the finer granularity to store 214 = 16,384 (0-16,383) values. This is results in 242 = 4,398,046,511,104 and who really needs 4 trillion color combinations? Generally, no human being--but lots of post-processing software.

 

Normally, the conversion from RAW to JPG (usually done by software in the camera before the image is stored) generally simply involves dropping of the least significant bits. So in my camera, the JPG conversion simply drops the last 6 bits and just stores the first 8. It's like calculating an interest payment at a bank for $123.456789 and rounding it to $123.46 (who does get to keep that fractional penny anyway?) ;) Those extra 6 bits can come in quite handy sometimes though. Let's say you are out shooting photos of birds in flight (I do this reasonably regularly) but it is a bit of an overcast day and the light is just not great. To not get a blurry photo of a bird moving its wings (they do this a lot while flying) you select a very short shutter speed (say 1/1000 second). This results in an acceptably sharp image but one that is underexposed say a stop or two. To "brighten" a digital image is nothing more than simple math--something like multiplying all the pixel values by 2 to double the brightness of the image (a bit of a simplification but good enough for this). To double a binary number is as simple as multiplying a decimal number by 10--you simply add a 0 to the end:

 

01100101 (101 in decimal)

11001010 (202 in decimal--really too many Dalmations at this point) :P

 

The crux of the issue is that when you multiply numbers by 2 you only get even numbers (odds are not possible)--you are missing some granularity at this point. Now lets take a really underexposed image where you need to multiply the values by 4 to get the image properly exposed. Instead of having the possibility of the initial values of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7...254, 255, you are now restricted to the values 0, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20,24...248, 252. This lack of possible values shows up visually as image processing "artifacts" which may show up as noise or something called color banding where there just aren't enough possible colors to make a smooth transition in something like a clear blue sky.

 

How do RAW images help in cases like this? It's actually pretty simple. We got in trouble above trying to change brightness in a JPG image because we lost those least significant bits. By keeping all 14 bits per color channel available in the RAW file (and not truncating to 8 bits as required by JPG), we have that extra information to use. When we multiply by 4 (worst case from above) we no longer have to insert two zeros on the right but we can use the values of those "extra" bits that the ADC was nice enough to measure and the RAW format was nice enough store. By having this extra information, image post-processing software can make use of it to allow the photographer to correct for improper exposures or (more usually) compress a higher dynamic range (the range from the darkest to lightest areas on an image) to make it more pleasing to the eye. When I don't wish to explain in detail (though, as you see, I'm quite easily provoked), I usually just tell folks that JPG images are "brittle" and will "break" (look ugly) if you push them too much in post-processing software. RAW images on the other hand are very malleable and can hold up to quite a bit of "digital darkroom" work with software and (if done correctly) not look like it's had any work done at all.

 

 

Again, I'm eager to see what astrophotography software might help to reveal in Mazon Creek concretions. An increase in contrast is likely what will be needed to attempt to bring out the maddeningly subtle Rorschach-test fossils within Mazon Creek concretions. That is not difficult to do in standard post-processing software (Photoshop and similar) with some nice RAW images as input. I wonder of astrophotography software might have some additional tools to aid in the cause.

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

 

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bigred97

@Calico Jack and @digit Thanks so much for the info! Really quite fascinating. It would be amazing if some of the techniques employed to photograph distant galaxies would be useful in photographing Mazon Creek fossils!

 

I have an app on my iPhone called Camera+ 2. It has a macro mode which I was experimenting with to take close up photos. But I noticed it also has a RAW mode and I didn't realize what that was. I think I'll have to give that a try with my new Xenvo macro lens. I never thought I would be learning so much about photography when I picked up this new hobby, but Mazon Creek never ceases to amaze!  :D

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