Cairns in the Darkroom Discard Pile

“Cairn” is a Gaelic word for stacks or piles of rocks. They came into my awareness when each summer, I noted seeing stacks in a particularly rocky patch of the lakefront while taking my weekly walks. I could look at the varying stacks and tell that someone had purposefully placed the rocks, some of which were very artistic. I’ve seen them the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie (around Mackinaw Island), and in inland locations. I do find them fascinating because it takes time and effort to create them.

In continuing my theme of mining images from my darkroom discard pile, I looked at my images of cairns for inspiration. Here are some that I found:


  • Sculpture in the Park: I found this cairn in a sculpture garden on Martha’s Vineyard. I loved the varying slate and granite colored stones used to make the cairn, and it was sitting atop a tree trunk. The engineer in me wonders if they are glued so they withstand the changing weather and seasons.


  • Lake Erie Cairn: Mackinaw Island, a walkable and beautiful location. There are so many tourists visiting here, I thought for sure I would see a bunch of these, because people like to leave their mark. Surprisingly enough, this is one of the few that I spied as I peered through the foliage along the rocky beach area.


  • Nestled Among Flowers: This low profile cairn was rested among a bed of yellow milkweed, which I loved. The waters of Lake Erie are in the background, while in the foreground a smaller rock rests on the foundational slab for the pile.


  • Lakeshore Cairn: This is one of the artistically structured cairns I found on my weekly walks. I was so impressed that after I finished my 5 mile walk, I went back home to get my camera. The all-white stone combination of the large slab foundation, the smaller flat one, the uniquely curved slab, and with the flat stone arches, easily caught my attention.


  • Skyline Cairn: I loved the simple, elegant stack where you can see the city’s southern facing skyline. Which city, you say? Chicago, my kind of town. A clear and beautiful day, the summery Lake Michigan is a dark teal shade, contrasting wonderfully against the blue sky.

I’ve said it before, I am happily traipsing through my darkroom discard pile looking for treasures. This time I found cairns, but there are others to come, and I look forward to sharing them with you.

See more outtakes from this and other photography outings by following me on Instagram @eyevpointofview.

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