Airborne imaging spectrometer data collected in the near-infrared (1.2-2.4 ??m) wavelength range were used to study the spectral expression of metamorphic minerals and rocks in the Ruby Mountains of southwestern Montana. The data were analyzed by using a new data enhancement procedure-the construction of relative absorption band-depth (RBD) images. RBD images, like bandratio images, are designed to detect diagnostic mineral absorption features, while minimizing reflectance variations related to topographic slope and albedo differences. To produce an RBD image, several data channels near an absorption band shoulder are summed and then divided by the sum of several channels located near the band minimum. RBD images are both highly specific and sensitive to the presence of particular mineral absorption features. Further, the technique does not distort or subdue spectral features as sometimes occurs when using other data normalization methods. By using RBD images, a number of rock and soil units were distinguished in the Ruby Mountains including weathered quartz - feldspar pegmatites, marbles of several compositions, and soils developed over poorly exposed mica schists. The RBD technique is especially well suited for detecting weak near-infrared spectral features produced by soils, which may permit improved mapping of subtle lithologic and structural details in semiarid terrains. The observation of soils rich in talc, an important industrial commodity in the study area, also indicates that RBD images may be useful for mineral exploration. ?? 1989.