The Delicate Art of Balance

Critique Style Requested: Standard

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


Cove Bay, Moray, Scotland

To answer the first question, “no I didn’t”, but I strongly suspect someone else did as I am fairly certain the likelihood of a tower of stones collecting in this pattern is an infinitely unlikely natural artistic event. I can’t help but wonder if the creator responsible realised just how cohesive and beautiful was the choice of the delicate pastel coloured stones, assimilated for this unstable sculpture, I guess we will never know. I like it very much though.

Technical Details

As the tower of stones leans back slightly against the trough in the sandstone slab I opted to photo stack four images to retain sharpness from top to toe.

Fuji GFX50S, f/11 at 1/15 second, ISO 100, 4 shot focus stack.


I love this. I knew at first glance that it wasn’t “natural” but that’s fine. It adds something to the shot.

Quite striking, Ian and even if you didn’t make it and it isn’t natural, it is appealing. I want to handle the stones. Feel their soft smoothness and heft. Like many other people, I pick up stones in far places and have a small collection of pebbles in a dish that reminds me of the places I’ve been. Lake Michigan. Lake Superior. Maine coast at a friend’s house. Rocks are so individual even if they are all the same kind. I think the aspect ratio works for this and it would make a fine print.

This is a lovely intimate scene you captured, Ian. Even though someone staged this I find it to be an intriguing image. The horizontal pano format works perfectly and I find the pastel colors quite soothing. These stones remind me of the small rounded ones I would find while visiting Acadia NP, ME. Brings back memories.

The shapes and colors are indeed a feast for the eyes. The question that immediately comes to mind upon seeing this is whether the pebbles at the very bottom are needed for this composition. I haven’t decided. I don’t know the answer to that. I really like the gentle light and how it affects the contours of those rocks. There’s a sensuous quality to them in a way.

Thank you Igor It does seem to me to have a beguiling even sensuous quality in respect of the gentle colour palette and the textural and sculptural shapes of stone and rock involved, however I wonder if that is sufficient to consider abstracting it to just appear as a line of stones and rock alone. I kind of like the extreme vertical composition, I have very few of them and even fewer that justify being so. I think the picture as displayed suggests that the stones stand upright and consequently reinforces the title I chose for the picture and the transient nature / instability of the tower of stones in that it has an inherently unstable platform to stand on. Without the base stones the story behind the image is hazier, the line of pebbles could just as easily be laying down in a trough, the vertical crop redundant and the orientation of the picture equally redundant.

Wonderful!! I think you need the base but maybe darken the two larger ones.

Ian, I love this image! It captures the eye immediately and is fun to settle into to explore. Focus stacking was a good idea. The only thing I’m noticing is a “border patrol” issue, and that’s at the very bottom. It feels cut off, truncated. I’d kind of like to see the stones in their entirety, but that would probably lead to other issues with that border. Otherwise, it’s lovely!


Overall, I think what appeals to me about this photograph is the softness, soft light, soft shape of the stones, soft colors, and even the sandstone itself has an essence of softness as well. This overall softness is then in sharp contrast with the hard nature of the stone. I think how you presented it is superb, and congratulations on the Editor’s Pick.

Thank you for your kind comments everyone. A pile of old stones isn’t everyone’s cup of tea so I am delighted to find that I am not the only one that finds them rather enchanting.

Ian, I’m always “late to the party”, but I too love the image. It speaks to me on several levels - the thought that went into making the stack, the beautiful “trunks” holding up the rocks on either side, the pale colors of the rocks contrasting against the sandstone color of the trunks on each side, the sexual innuendo (if you want to go there). I would love to see the bottom rocks darkened just a bit. It’s a fun thought provoking and yet whimsical photo.

I think I’m even later to the party, @robertakayne , LOL! I am on the road full time and still trying to sort out my work/play schedule…

Ian, I love the soft sensual feel to this image, and agree with others that you need the base to orient us and create a balance if we want the image to be more literal. Without the base, the image becomes more abstract, I think. I personally like the base being included. I also love the slight wavy line that the stones make from bottom to top, it gives some tension to the image - in a good way!

What constantly amazes me is what you said in your description. Art comes in many forms, and did the person who made this stacking of rocks have any idea the beauty of what he/she created my choosing the right color rocks and stacking them just so, right in that spot? Excellent work on his/her part and excellent work on your part to see the image and shoot it. I very much like it. Kudo’s to both people who had a vision.