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A challenge: break these 3 aquascaping rules with a great tank

Are these rules helpful or annoying?


  • Total voters
    13

greenink

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Time to start a debate: is it possible to pretty mechanically ‘test’ for a good and bad hardscape? I’m beginning to think that for 75% or more of cases*, it is, using just three rules.

For obvious reasons this post is pretty photo heavy, so apologies!

Rule 1: Focal points need to be pretty much bang on 1/3 markers, not at the same level, and one should be ‘near’ (in yellow below) and one ‘far’ in terms of depth. And each square of a 1/3 grid should be pretty distinct.

Rule 2: The hardscape should have strong lines across some core diagonals

Rule 3: The three main ‘directions’ in the tank should accentuate the lines in rule 2, and all point in different, ‘tension creating’ directions outside the tank.

Here are eleven examples to show you what I mean… (Long train journey!) First up some of the tanks I admire most. Then my own failures – think helpful to show what doesn’t work as well as what does.

One: George Farmer’s latest aquascape fits all the rules really well.
One.png

Two: this used to be one of my all time favourites. But looking now, with the help of the lines, think loses impact because the tension lines aren’t strong enough, and the near focus point isn’t strong enough. Would it have been better with a big red plant bush on the right?
hardscape%20plan%20wood%20and%20stone.002.png

Three: just to show that stretching the rules pretty far is ok if you’re a genius.
hardscape%20plan%20wood%20and%20stone.003.png

Four: Lovely, perfect example.
Four.png

Five: I love this tank. The grid on this is really tight, as are the diagonals.
Five.png

Six: this goes further away from ‘the rules’ than any others so far. It’s obviously brilliant, but would it be stronger if the top left quarter was a bit more directional?
Six.png

Seven: a much wider tank, so it’s really two overlapping tanks. Really tight on diagonals and interesting directional flow. I love how the eye floats around this one.

hardscape%20plan%20wood%20and%20stone.007.png

* the obvious exception to all this are island and U shaped ‘scapes… but would love to see what people think, and whether there are any examples of fantastic tanks that flagrantly break these rules.

What do people think? My failures coming right up…
 

greenink

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Now for the not-so-good. Eight: my current tank. It’s felt like it doesn’t quite work for some reason I can’t put my foot on. And here it is: fails on all three rules! Think this gives a sense of what I need to do to sort it out, so really helpful. I basically need to decide what I'm doing and then go for it... at the moment is a sort of fudge between various ideas with no strong theme behind it.
hardscape%20plan%20wood%20and%20stone.008.png

Nine: a ‘draft’ hardscape I did earlier this week. Grid is ok, but lacks a second focal point, something highlighting the top left to bottom right diagonal, and all the directional pieces are too similar.

Nine.png

Ten: A hardscape from my ‘transparent tank’ I had for quite a while. Is about 50% there, but now quite easy to see what could have been better. Grid could be tweaked a bit, but diagonals really needed urgent sorting, and the directions all go in the same direction! The main stone should have been facing the other direction at a lower angle, for example, and it would have been a lot better quickly.
Ten.png

Eleven: A really old hardscape from when I just started and didn’t really know what I was doing. But actually, it’s my best one. Grid works nicely. If I’d just taken the lowest branch and flipped it vertically, so it pointed towards the bottom corner, would have been getting towards a good hardscape.
Eleven.png

That's my penny's worth... over to you. Really interested in whether people can post a hardscape that breaks these rules and is still genius.
 

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Ian Holdich

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This is a great thread Mike, I like the way you have explained the 'golden rule' and the pics also make it easy to understand.

I was just thinking whether people 'mean' to do this when making a scape or does it come naturally to them when scaping a tank? What do people think?
 

jack-rythm

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This is a great thread Mike, I like the way you have explained the 'golden rule' and the pics also make it easy to understand.

I was just thinking whether people 'mean' to do this when making a scape or does it come naturally to them when scaping a tank? What do people think?
I agree with Ian.. Love the thread but I can't help think that this is art, design and just naturally created imagery. I believe if you can't draw u can learn and be successful but u can never become as good as someone that has never had to learn, some one who has it in their blood. That make sense? I think your thread is amazing as it's very very helpful indeed. But I also feel it's an art in itself. A blank canvas to design onto. I think we can learn and understand what methods to abide by but I think sometimes people go with their instinct. :) I'm not taking any credit from you, I think this is wicked!

Sent from my GT-I9100 using Tapatalk 2
 

nayr88

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I need to work this out a bit more, I'm sure what your explains is simple I just not sure i get the dots
I understand they are focal points is what your saying but why??
Why are they focal points wash divas brought to them? I can't say they would have been if there wasn't dots there
Or are we putting there dots to show where they should be and then it's up to you to have a twisted bit if wood or an shadow or red plants ect to bring attention here.

Sorry it this sounds silly :/
 

jack-rythm

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I think its just showing where the focal points are in relation to the 3 3rds rule and the gridded lines maybe? I think the focal points have a lot of give and room for manipulation as long as the other areas are balanced.
 

George Farmer

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Hi Mike

Thanks for taking the time and effort to create this thread.

Personally I "just put the focal points where I think looks best" and don't deliberately consider the golden ratio or rule of thirds.

Here's a few of my 'scapes that you're welcome to analyse, if you like...

60cm - White cloud mountain (2009)
whitejpg.jpg


30cm - Little Mountain (2009)


120cm - Harlequins' Haven (2009)


60cm - Scree (2010)
6330045912_28176bbf0d_o.jpg
iwagumi1 by George Farmer, on Flickr

120cm - Jungle v1 (2011)
6330048940_74ab9efe65_o.jpg
jungle1 by George Farmer, on Flickr

60cm - Shallow (2012)
8386564768_94d97c749e_o.jpg
60cm shallow by George Farmer, on Flickr
 

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Ady34

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Nice thread Mike.
Itll provide lots of fun and food for thought.
I tend to just position my hardscape and plants where i like the look of them.....will be interesting to do some analysis to see how they fare....
Theres more information on the 'Golden Ratio' in the Aquascaping Basics part two sticky thread posted by George.
Aquascaping Basics - Part Two | UK Aquatic Plant Society
Happy analysing :)
 

nayr88

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Am I right in what I've done here? I don't really get this stuff haha
myvageta.jpg


The circles are quite large as the editor I use from iTunes is for making fun photos haha and quite awkward I use
The bottom right should be to the left a tad
 

jack-rythm

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I don't think there is a right and wrong focal point as long as you have it balanced with other factors, it's difficult to determine which is focal on different scapes, ie. Island scapes, corner scapes, iwagumi scapes, Dutch scapes, jungle scapes etc. All angles and direction will always differ. I personally think it's important to stick to focal points in 3rds. I can't show you amazing scapes as I do not have any but I design everyday in my life and need to follow the balances the 3 3rds, this goes for my art work and building design too. I don't think it's the grid lines themselves that we should be aiming to pin point, but the 3 columns the grid lines create. There is so much mathematics and geometry involved it almost takes the imagination out of the equation. I think balances are created by imbalances. So many other aspects need to be taken when designing a scape though. Again I'm definitely not a pro at scapes but I feel this isn't down to person positioning of hard scape but the fact I'm a rookie with the knowledge of plant growth. I have not completely understood what grows where, how it grows and why. I think this is what could ultimately decide the scape in the end :)

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Ian Holdich

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Some scapers get hung up on the rule of two thirds that much they'll put take on the tape on the tank to ensure they hit it. They sometimes can miss out on the nature aspect of scaping, as the scape becomes way to clinical and over extenuated. This again is my personal opinion...most stuff comes down to opinion in this hobby. But I do think you need to get the golden ratio right to some extent. This is what turns a good scape into an amazing scape.
 

greenink

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The red circles and arrows are my best attempt to capture a bit of the 'art' in this - for me it's where the eye gets naturally drawn most. Couldn't agree more that for lots of people it will be instinctive, but for those of us who aren't quite so artistic, is good to have something that allows us a helpful, critical framework. And of course the best work will always be where the rules are broken in interesting ways!

Thanks George - have done a quick 'analysis' on four of your tanks. What's really interesting for me is that where the tank lacks (at least for me) one of the near or far focus points in the hardscape, the fish shoal is positioned to create one. Shows how much great photography (patience) and a bit of artistic skill comes into play.

This one is pretty classically aligned with the 'rules', but nicely off centre.
George1.png

This one is furthest away, which is probably why it looks so unusual and distinctive.
George2.png

This is (rightly!) a lot of people's favourite tank. And looking at this shows a bit why: absolutely bang on. Also really worth noticing how the fish shoal highlights the focus points and diagonals.
George3.png

Before I put the lines over this, thought wasn't going to fit - and was then really surprised. The planting and fish shoal do a lot to emphasise the golden ratios.
George4.png
 

stu_

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Interesting thread, thanks for the effort.
Certainly gives a relative newcomer like myself something else to think about.
I can look at a scape and know that i like it, and this goes some way to explaining why it works.
Next time i feel the need for a rescape, gonna do what feels right, then see if i hit any of the focals & diagonals, see where it needs tweaking.Use it as a learning tool to hone skills hopefully.
 

Aquadream

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I don't mean to be the party pooper, but all of those rules are jibberish. One can find all sorts of geometry to explain just about anything.
If things don't come naturally to one self reading and drawing lines will do little justice.

The thing to do is to imitate nature as best as you can, not to analyse aquascapes, because they only represent very limited personal point of view.

Nature is universal. All answers are there.
 

Ian Holdich

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I don't mean to be the party pooper, but all of those rules are jibberish. One can find all sorts of geometry to explain just about anything.
If things don't come naturally to one self reading and drawing lines will do little justice.

The thing to do is to imitate nature as best as you can, not to analyse aquascapes, because they only represent very limited personal point of view.

Nature is universal. All answers are there.

I get what you're saying, are you also saying there is no such thing as the rule of two thirds to make things stand out above the rest?
 

Aquadream

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I get what you're saying, are you also saying there is no such thing as the rule of two thirds to make things stand out above the rest?
I mentioned in other treads before that I am a professional artist. As such I have studied all of the rules for years and I am well acquainted with them.
The whole point of the rules is to attempt an explanation of how certain images are more to the liking of the human eye than others. Also to create images that will be more successful in this regard.
However non of those rules make any sense in nature.
Observing carefuly and imitating nature works way better when creating nature look a like images, weather is a picture on the wall or an aquascape.
 

jack-rythm

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are you also saying there is no such thing as the rule of two thirds to make things stand out above the rest?
I dont think anyone can claim that can they? I do however think that the term should be changed to 'the guide of two thirds' Im not talking about geomerty mumbo jumbo Im just simply saying, whether we like it or not, our vision immediately relates to imbalances and asymmetry. unless its a specific symmetric creation, the imbalance of the 2 3rds 'works best' for us. Its what our vison is more comfortable with seeing in a more sensory way. of course EVERYTHING we ever do all boils down to preference, that goes with out saying. When we look at the 3 thirds 'guide' we see unequal sections and gradations that ultimately, whether we like it or not, attract our attention easily from section to section. When we look at something with equal sections it just holds more difficulty in viewing the image frame for us to process. We find it difficut because our eyes cannot determine which is the focal point straight away and we get confused. I dont beleive there is an ultimate answer for design,but a more 'correct feel' for design, there is just a good and bad perspective, thats all. Some people have the knack to just create a comfortable visual effect and other dont, the others that dont will excell in areas that the creative cannot. this is just human nature. I do believe that everything is preference of course so Im just speaking from my own opinion.

I find this thread interesting as I go through stuff like this daily with my personal work. Its very interesting to see how people perceive the 'correct image'. I have designed logos for businesses based on the 3 thirds rule ('guide') and checked it with other designers all confirming the correct balance and then I have shown it to a client and they simply dont like it. So this shows that overall its down to taste.

Its almost like asking someone what their favorite colour is.. We all have different opinions on the best colour to paint our lounge, lets just all agree that each scape may not be to our tast but to others it might be. I completely agree with you Aquadream when you say nature is out there to copy, because it is for sure! but not everyone can copy nature. Nature is of course a miracle in itself :)
 

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