Diary of a Rock Balancer ::

Stone Balance Art created (05 March 2016) and photographed by Michael Grab — 07 March 2016 — South Island, New Zealand ::

Last night/morning in New Zealand… Same pagoda from a recent post, but the last thing i expected while building it was to have alignment with a star-lit sky like this. . . Which, at the time, seemed impossible amidst the relative chaos of vanlife and circumstance. Sooo, cheers to either getting lucky, or, like usual, tapping into the right flow at the right time.

Lifespan of this tower was roughly 40 hours total, 5 hours of which I spent building in extremely high winds, 2 minutes dismantling, 5-6 hours sleeping, and the rest was spent shooting as much as possible.. A minor obsession for those last days. Also felt like a few days out of time, transformative, leading me to several personal reflections I didn’t know I needed at the time.

Biggest challenge of executing this photo was fighting the exhaustion and urge to sleep, getting up, going out and navigating a tripod camera setup, basically in the creek bed (yes soaked at 3am) . . . in the darkest conditions I’ve seen, while keeping a low profile — silent Jedi style.

The bit of light pollution on the left side was from nearby Queenstown. This was at Twelve-Mile Delta Campsite, which was also a shooting location for the LOTR trilogy. .

So, where to from here? currently back in Colorado, USA.. with a huge amount of wanderlust. Feeling quite antsy already to fly onward and explore more –> for this i am open to your suggestions!.. If you have an interesting/beautiful place with pretty rocks, and/or have a way to host my visit (wherever you are in the world – couchsurfing style works!) then please feel free to direct message me with ideas/possibilities, and perhaps we can coordinate ideas with reality!


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225 Responses
  1. You should go to Alto Paraiso in Brazil!! It’s so Gorgeous there and the definition of peaceful!! So many fabulous water falls/photo opportunities!!

    Also I’m sure you’ve been up to NC before!! Asheville area on and around the Blue Ridge Parkway is beautiful. I grew up up there. If you haven’t been its def a place you have to go for this!!

    Beautiful Work!!

  2. It reminds me of the night sky above the house when I was living up at Saint Mary’s Glacier area at 10,000′ elevation, about an hour’s drive west of Denver, Colorado, for about three years.

  3. I would love to see time laps photos. Or highlights. 1.6 metres is impossible to gague from the photos. Australia has many, many places that would be perfect for you. I suggest the Northern Territory and certainly Central Australia. Research is key. Unfortunately I live in Melbourne, nowhere near the choicest locations for your mission. I’m sure there would be plenty of Australians with a couch or even a room to spare.

  4. I know you did cornwall west last year, but there is also the Lizard peninsula. This is an intrusion of Serpentine into the granite sheet, deep magma come up to the surface. Rock of many colours and hardnesses. Have already shared your site among friends, fans already, perhaps consider a day of showing us a few tips too. Spare room waiting, pick up from Newquay airport, be great to have you here. Also check this guy, Manfredo, I knew in Miasto commune in Tuscanny, http://www.devamanfredo-stoneart.com

  5. This is brilliant – this is Sarah from the British family that stumbled upon you photographing this. Absolutely stunning and looking forward to getting in touch about purchasing!

  6. Yes! Please post the highlights as a series so we can share your experience of the building and witnessing….. We spent some rime in Queenstown, Frans Josef, Fox Glacier a few years back under the stars. Did you hear about Bruce Bay down the road from Fox where the beach is full of everyones constructs from driftwood and pebbles?
    Must have been great to finally build your pagoda in the wind, wake up to find it still there and then get your shots across its lifespan. …. let’s see them pls!

  7. Amazing capture of the Milky Way!!!!

    If you’re ever in the Northeast, I know some great spots around Cape Cod… and at the summit of Mt. Washington in NH is just calling for you!

  8. You have inspired me this past summer. Im nowhere near your caliber but I will keep at it. this is at Signal Hill in St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada last summer.

  9. Serendipity but also much diligence and work. Have you thought about a book? That being said the western part of North Carolina has some magnificent falls and also some beautiful rocks. Lots of geodes. I live in Chapel Hill, which is in the middle of the state. The Cashiers area has many water falls and amazing rocks. Thank you thank you so much for this picture!

    1. oh my god! this is so gorgeous! i can’t wait to go stacking again tomorrow. it’s so much fun. I was just doing it with the driveway rocks lol

    2. definitely. there’s a bunch of places I want to stack and take photos. I was doing a lot bigger rocks when I went to montauk a few weeks ago. id be so excited if they were still standing haha

  10. Also- if you like greenish rocks, there are some beautiful ones if you go above Ouray to the baby bath tubs. There are campgrounds there and wonderful falls you can follow up or down the hillside. I am sure you would find some great rocks to work with there!

  11. Spectacular! I’ve never seen so many stars. I can’t decide if this Gaia Inukshuk (I like the term) is a witness or a sentinel. Someone was here, witnessing the universe. I’m awestruck.

    1. I hope you don’t mind, Michael.


      an improvised stone pagoda
      centered at vanishing point
      flat rocks stacked in tiers
      with smaller rocks in between layers
      providing breathing room’s life energy
      an hour glass shaped tower
      rising from the river
      pointing to countless stars
      like shiny salt crystals spreckling sky
      flavoring the cosmos
      the Milky Way flashes its brilliance
      silhouetting cabbage and kauri flanking the shores
      reflecting on clear midnight waters
      reslembling green and purple northern lights
      illuminating a narrow whisper of clouds streaking by
      foreshadowing distant majestic mountainlines
      Gaia Inukshuk stands tall
      witness and sentinel
      watching and keeping watch
      jealous eyes peek at her peaceful poetry
      awestruck by serenity’s strength and power
      curious of her creator
      as he presents the universe that’s inside him

      © 03/19/2016

  12. Wow- I was already a fan but you have outdone yourself on this one! It’s absolutely stunning! You must have an amazing internal calmness to be so patient to go through building these stone works of art and then waiting for the perfect moment to capture perfection. So glad I found your work! Thanks for sharing.

    1. depends on the time and place. the first pagoda i made up near franz josef, i left in place cuz it was remote enough to pose marginal risk to curious humans. This one, in contrast, was in a busy spot for sunny days, families, kids, dogs, weekend traffic. So i took it down.

    2. Why does traffic determine if you leave it or dismantle it?

      Is it a safety concern? What is the size of this stack… its really hard to tell the size of these stones given the majestic grandeur of the backdrop :)

  13. The blue ridge mountains in Salem VA I love It here and has great rocks and good people, could also use your insight as well. It’s not to far and I don’t think you would be disappointed either. Just a thought

  14. Yes I want to see it. Your work is so wonderful. There are not enough words for it. Have you ever gone to Red River Gorge in KY or in TN to the Smokey Mountains. It’s breathtaking there. Lots of creeks, streams and rocks there.

    1. this was shot with a nikon d800 + 14-24mm f.2.8 lens.. the body being less than ideal for shooting this type of scene, looking forward to upgrading the body sometime soon.

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