Rock arch with rock stack
History,  Landscape,  Lens-Artists,  Themed galleries

Gallery: earth’s story told in its rocks

We might say that the earth has a spirit of growth; that its flesh is the soil, its bones the arrangement and connection of the rocks of which the mountains are composed, its cartilage the tufa, and its blood the springs of water.

Leonardo da Vinci

Earth’s story is told most clearly in its rocks. There the layers of the past are revealed to us, viewing in the present. And each of those rocks is shaped by the elements, evolving over time into natural sculptures, often of great beauty.

So for Amy’s Lens Artists challenge this week I trawled my archives for images where the story of our earth can be ‘read’ in its geology. I’m certainly no geologist however, so these shots are chosen purely for aesthetic appeal and captioned with a similar level of ignorance! I’ll start fairly close to home, in England, before heading further afield.

Eroded rocks with a green landscape beyond

The dramatically eroded Brimham Rocks, Yorkshire, England

Rock cliff dotted with green bushes

Cheddar Gorge in south west England – our answer to the Grand Canyon!

Rock arch in the sea

Durdle Door, Dorset; part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Here coastal erosion has exposed rock formations from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Dramatic rock formations by the sea

The coast at Arnarstapi on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Landscape with rock cliff

Gerðuberg, a row of perfectly shaped hexagonal basalt columns on the Snӕfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland. That country could be a geology lesson all by itself!

Landscape with ridges of rock into the distance

We can’t talk about earth’s story as told in its rocks without mentioning the Grand Canyon. This is a very old slide of the view from Point Imperial on the North Rim.

Aerial view of a large canyon

And this is an equally old slide of a flight over the Grand Canyon.

Rock formations and arch lit by the sun

While we’re on old slides, this is in Monument Valley, Utah, while my featured photo was taken in Arches National Park in the same state and shows Turret Arch.

Rock cliffs linked by an arch

This is La Ventana Arch in El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico.

People standing on high rock ridge

The dramatic view from Sandstone Bluffs, also in El Malpais National Monument

Looking down into a gorge with a river

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, nearly as dramatic as its much larger namesake

Deep green lake in a crater

Quilotoa crater in the Ecuadorean Andes, created of course by a volcanic eruption.

Rock layers reflected in still water

Semi-abstract reflections of rock layers in another crater lake, Mount Paektu, North Korea

Dramatic rock formation in the sea
Dramatic rock formations in the sea

Rock formations in Bai Tu Long Bay, Vietnam

Touched by human hand

But people are part of earth’s story too, of course. Here are a few final shots of places where people have literally left their mark on the earth.

Simple animal shapes scratched into a red rock

Petroglyphs at Twyfelfontein in Namibia

Spiral and other shapes scratched into a rock

Petroglyphs in Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Simple painting of a man in red on a rock face

Pictograph in one of the caves at Gila Cliffs, New Mexico

Names and dates carved into a rock

Register Rock, Wyoming; here travellers on the Oregon Trail camped for the night and recorded their names and the dates of their passage.


  • Annie Berger

    Phenomenal collection of phots from such disparate places throughout the world. They just make me want to add so many more places to my travel wish list that I keep hoping is getting smaller and NOT longer, Sarah! Living in Colorado, we are so close to New Mexico yet still haven’t visited some of that state’s national monuments – we obviously need to rectify that.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Oh I know just what you mean! Reading other people’s blogs is fatal when it comes to trying to shorten your travel wish-list 😆 We loved NM, one of our favourite US road trips ever. So much variety in one state!

  • Alli Templeton

    And what an unimaginably rich and varied story the Earth’s rocks tell over a span of time of which we humans can’t even conceive. You’ve illustrated this beautifully, Sarah, and shown how that story wraps around the entire planet. 🙂

  • SoyBend

    Loved this collection of photos, Sarah! I see places I’ve been and others I’d like to visit. I liked the petroglyphs, Andean crater (it looks like our Crater Lake National Park), and the basalt columns.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Siobhan 🙂 We’ve been to Crater Lake, many years ago – from memory, although it has some similarities with this one (being a volcanic crater), the surrounding landscape is rather different with more trees. Maybe it’s at a lower altitude?

  • Leya

    All of these are just fabulous. Sarah! Wow…you really have been around! Love especially Namibia and Vietnam – but of course the country of geology itselt too, Iceland.

  • Dawn

    Wow. Amazing photos! I love all of the examples of earth–rock formations–you provide through your beautiful photos. I would love to visit some of the places around the world in your photos, especially since I’ve seen all of the ones you provide for the southwest US. Thank you for sharing!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Dawn 😊 I do think the south west US has to be one of the best regions in the world for rock formations and dramatic scenery in general. I’d love to return one day! And I hope you get to visit some of these other places too.

  • Wind Kisses

    I love that you used geology to define your Earth Story. My favorite was Durdle Door. Stunning place and I imagine even more beautiful in person. That will be on my list. I love the traveling you have done in my part of the world and all of those photos brought me a smile. I was tickled to see Bandelier on your list. Even locals haven’t hear of it, and for me it was the coolest place to learn (And wander) about another time in history. Very nice. donna

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Donna 😊 The whole Jurassic Coast, of which Durdle Door is just a small part, is both beautiful and fascinating. You can look for fossils, enjoy wonderful cliff walks or simply stroll/relax on the beaches – highly recommended if ever you’re in England! As to Bandelier, most of the park was closed when we were in Santa Fe unfortunately (there had been a major wildfire) so we could only visit one small part, but what we saw was stunning and very interesting, because of the ancient history there 🙂

  • JohnRH

    Not noticing at whose site I was looking at first, as soon as I got to North Korea I knew, oh yeah, this must be ToonSarah. Voila. Great photos. I love rocks!

  • wetanddustyroads

    Oh wow, UK’s answer to the Grand Canyon is quite spectacular! And Utah’s rock formations are very similar to the ones here locally in the Cederberg Mountains where we go for frequent hikes. And what a stunning picture of that crater in the Ecuadorean Andes! The rock art is equally lovely … I didn’t know you visited Namibia!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much 😊 Yes, I’ve seen and wondered at the rock formations you’ve shared from the Cederberg Mountains – they look amazing! We were in Namibia in 2007 I think (roughly around then anyway) and loved it!

  • pattimoed

    Wow, Sarah. What a wonderful gallery! I like your images of the Grand Canyon from its older side. And your petroglyphs are wonderful! You are definitely a world traveler. 😀❤️

  • Rose

    Absolutely fascinating photos. It would have been wonderful to have a time-lapse camera to show us how these formations were created. Mount Paektu, North Korea was so interesting geometrically as well as geologically.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Rose 🙂 Yes, I liked the shapes made by the layers and reflections at Mount Paektu. Some of our group climbed right to the top of the mountain but I was happier trying to create abstracts from the patterns!

  • Tina Schell

    Excellent choice for the week Sarah – I’ve loved many of the sites you featured as well as several others, and then you also included some I’ve not visited. We did an overnight at Uluru which was amazing, and loved the remaining apostles. I loved all of the arches you featured – again, some I’ve seen, some not. The North Korea image is my favorite of the set though. What an ode to Mother Earth you gave us! Beautiful post.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Tina 🤗 I’m glad you like the Mount Paektu shot. It’s more abstract than the others and harder to ‘read’ but it’s a great example of the layers in our rocks!

  • Teresa

    Oh wow, I was excited to see what you’ll be sharing for this topic. And you never disappoint, Sarah. All lovely photos ❤️❤️❤️

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Fascinates me too although I know almost nothing about it! Have you been to Iceland? If not you should definitely go as Michaela would be in her element there!


        No we haven’t, not yet anyway. I should really give Michaela full credit – her Natural Science degree included large sections on geology and vulcanology, hence her fascination (although by her own admission she’s forgotten most of it – too many beers and sleeps since then!)

  • I. J. Khanewala

    Its interesting that when you look at each of these rock formations you think “How odd”, but when you see so many looking rather similar you begin to wonder why the natural arch is so common

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Interesting observation 🙂 I guess it’s to be expected when layers of substances with different properties (some hard, some soft) are piled on top of each other and then subjected to a variety of challenging forces?

  • Amy

    Majestic mountains and rocks around the world tell great stories of earth. A row of perfectly shaped hexagonal basalt columns, amazing! Bai Tu Long Bay view is breathtaking. Thank you for sharing, Sarah!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Amy, both for this comment and the great theme this week – I enjoyed putting this together. I scheduled it to publish while out last night so I’m glad the pingback worked and you found it 🙂 Those columns in Iceland are amazing, as is so much of the landscape there!

  • kzmcb

    Well, if you are so fond of rocks, you must come to Australia. One is iconic, and several are as old, or older, than some in your gallery. We even have living rocks – something for everyone.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I have been to Australia but as with some of the US destinations my photos are all old slides, and unlike those I haven’t got around yet to digitising them. We didn’t get to Uluru but the Three Sisters would have fitted this theme well and we also saw Aboriginal rock art which would have been a great addition to the final section. I must scan those slides one day!

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