Sea Stacks - Isle of Lewis

Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


These sea stacks were carved from 3-Billion-year-old Lewisian Gneiss, the oldest rocks in the UK. The light-colored granitic intrusions are 1.6-Billion-years-old. Upon arriving at this cliff edge, I took off my pack and had to take time to absorb this geologic wonder. I know a two-dimensional photo does not do it justice.

Specific Feedback

I slightly reduced the blue saturation. Should it be pulled back further? The water in the Outer Hebrides is incredibly blue, to the point of disbelief until you actually see it.

Technical Details

Although the seas were relatively mild, the water texture was still distracting, so I used a 6 stop ND + polarizer, and f14 @ iso 100 to create a 25 second exposure. I felt the smooth water surface creates a perfect setting for the sea stacks. I was surprised at how much blue was bought out during the long exposure. Using ND filters on the ever-windy Scottish coast is a challenge. I had to check the sharpness of each image and deleted many.

Bill, the “flat” blue water does set off the sea stacks very well. The stacks are quite striking and well distributed throughout the frame. My experience with 10 stop NDs is that the quality of the filter matters a lot, with the less well made ones adding strong color casts. Depending on its orientation the ND may enhance the blue sky reflection relative to the rocks. (Think about how unnaturally dark NDs can make the sky at times.) While all that may (or may not!) influence the blue in the water relative to the colors in the rocks and land, you were there, so you’re the best judge of what’s realistic, particularly in terms of the relative colors in the water vs the land.

This is striking, and definitely 3D! The colors are gorgeous and look very natural. A fascinating scene and the long exposure adds an appropriate element of mystery.

Thank you for your insights, Mark. I am using Kase filters and am not aware of any color cast issues.

I’m glad you enjoyed the image, Diane. Living in Colorado, my opportunities for coastal photography are quite limited, so this trip was a real treat, and I finally got to experiment with ND filters.