Cosmic Shoals


SKU: cosmicshoals2k111 Category: Tags: , ,


I didn’t really set out to update Cosmic Shoals when I started this project. Rather I set out to model a globular cluster (and some of that is still in the image) but the story “grew in the telling”.

Technical note: In the past I have used Zbrush for “landforms” such as these (see “Circumpolar) but this time I chose to use Vue’s built in “symmetrical terrains”. By adjusting the clipping range you can make all sorts of interesting shapes without the memory overhead of importing .OBJs.

Jessie told me this one reminded her of some of my earlier work, and I tend to think this is because of the lack of any vegetation or the other objects I tend to scatter around using Vue’s ecosystems. I tried adding some “alien flora” here and there but nothing seemed to look right (given the scale of the scene). I may yet play around with that but I thought it looked nice enough to share as is. Hope you enjoy it!

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61 reviews for Cosmic Shoals

  1. Chris S

    I find it so hard to rate your pictures; there’s so many and so magnificent. In this one, I thought it’d be cool if there was a kayak pulled up on the shore near the person.

  2. Doc

    Really like this one. To me it just looks ‘right’. Wish I had triple screens !

  3. Ryan

    Perhaps this info will help…

  4. Irim

    I have an iMac running Windoze and when I right-click, I don’t get ‘Set as Wallpaper’ as an option. I know I’ve done this before, but now can’t remember what to do…

  5. Westy

    as always, i love the work, i just though the contrast could use a little boost, it seems just a tad washed out.

  6. Kevin


    The link to the original “Cosmic Shoals” is off. You have when it should be

    Just a heads up.

    On a side note, I love your stellar(space) works like this. It’s always enjoyable to see what the universe looks like in your head! πŸ™‚ I do find the person slightly distracting, but it’s not going to kill my enjoyment of the overall scene.


  7. justin

    Thanks buddy!

    worked out well πŸ™‚

    appreciate it very much πŸ™‚

  8. Justin

    Hey Brice,

    Left click on the size of wallpaper that fits your screen. Once the image comes up on your browser, right click on the image, then left click save image as, then save it like anyother file.

  9. Bryce

    I have payed for membership on this sight but i have no idea how to download these beautiful wallpapers xD

    Any help would be apprieciated

  10. Ryan

    Are you looking for a 800 wide by 480 tall image (landscape) or 800 tall by 480 wide (portrait )?

  11. Chris

    ANy chance you will be making a 800×480 moble version anytime soon? Just wondering have a great new phone but no backgrounds for it.

  12. David

    Edit on previous comment, I meant 5120×1600 =)

    Also I mentioned this on another image, but can we get multiscreen lossless? Particularly you are providing 2560×1600 single screen lossless, I have two of those screens thus 5120×1600 and would really like a lossless PNG for them..


  13. David

    Just out of curiosity, I’ve seen this go missing a lot lately, do you not have a script to upload all the known sizes to your website? Seems like doing it manually will continue to miss things.

  14. Thunderbol

    sorry, but looks boring to me :p

  15. Duncan

    I really enjoy viewing updated renditions of your older projects. I can understand where some people are not happy with the person in the picture and on some instances, I would agree. I feel IҀ™m now sharing my view with some Γ’Β€ΒœstrangerҀ when all I want is my space to view, relax and reflect.

  16. Michelle

    I really like this, but for this picture for some reason the person feels out of place. I think I would enjoy it even more if you provided a version without the person in it. Keep up the great work!

  17. Marco

    I love it….so original

  18. dc

    fyi, the new blackberry 9900 uses 640×480.

    p.s. love the new pic πŸ™‚

  19. Ryan

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ve added the 1600 x 900 resolution this morning.

  20. Brandi

    Cosmic Shoals is one of my all-time favorite wallpapers. Love this “update”!

    I like the person. The extra life in this scene is subtle, but also a change from the original.

  21. SimonRev

    This is definitely going to be a classic render for me. I couple of thoughts that I had on it, though include:

    I think the person is out of place. I know you like to provide some perspective of size, and in general I agree.

    However, I just envision this specific world as devoid of all life, and so a person on the beach kind of breaks that illusion.

    The other thing I am not sure about is the circular cloud bank — just strikes me as odd. I don’t have any specific reason for this though.

  22. 0beron

    I love this image, particularly the rock formations, but I notice that the Dual 16:10 image with a height of 1600px is missing from the multiscreen renders. I have an odd setup with four monitors in portrait/landscape, with a bounding rectangle of 5060x1680px, so the 1600 high 16:10 image was always the largest, and closest image in aspect ratio. I’m happy cutting the triple 16:10 to fit, but wondered if the omission was deliberate.

    If anyone else with strange monitor configurations is interested, I have a script to cut the image to size and rearrange subrectangles of it so that it appears correctly if your primary monitor isn’t the leftmost (windows only).

  23. Pernille

    Really love this wallpaper, think it’s one of the best ones you’ve done in a while. I am also astrophysicist, but have changed careers and am now working as a data analyst instead. This feels a bit like coming home… πŸ™‚ Thanks for another great image.

  24. Bruceam

    I like this image a lot. There is one thing I would like you to put into your thinking when you make the multiple monitor versions of this and all of your future images: The monitor boundries. The dual screen Cosmic Shoals is a good example of what happens when the main subject of the image straddles the monitor boundries. Please consider moving the main subject of your compositions a bit to the right or to the left. This will allow the main focus of the view to avoid the spaces between the monitors. This is usually not a problem with the triple monitor versions, becasue the center of the image is right in the middle of the center monitor.

    Once again, this is a great image. Please keep up the great work.


  25. Cody

    I love the “terrestrial” aspects of this piece. The clouds along the horizon, slight mist, rocky outcrops, and water reflection all look fantastic. The cluster looks too close and thus appears like a much smaller object, perhaps a planetary collision or something. I think if the core were not as bright overall (and showed more stars) and the dust cloud around it has less definition the cluster would appear further away and more cosmic in size. FWIW, the original Cosmic Shoals has been one of my favorite pieces.

  26. Zach

    Another fantastic piece, Ryan! I can’t wait to download the multi-screen version. πŸ™‚

  27. Ryan

    Thanks Kody. Sounds like maybe you are using a Android phone. Please see here for some tips on downloading to your Droid.

  28. Kody

    Heu ryan, keep up the great work! This one is amazing! One thing tho. I’m having problems downloading images to my phone straight from the site. Any ideas on how to fix it?

  29. sigmaman

    Top stuff mate! Love it. Like some others said,maybe a version with a spacecraft or ship to give the figure some more context perhaps. You could do it for the pickle jar.

  30. Amaryllis

    Incredible picture! I prefer such landscapes without figures as I can then imagine myself into them more easily, but that is the tiniest issue with a wonderful image. Thank you, again.

  31. jmpond

    A top ten if there ever was! A perfect blend of primordial violence with a peaceful almost serene after glow to it. I Love It!

  32. J_Hodges

    FYI I have beside my desk a painting I bought at a Science-fiction convention. A night scene, foreground is a rocky cove, calm water with a yacht floating, lit windows in the yacht, no human (or otherwise) figures visible. The view is apparently from a beach, because in the upper corners of the frame are some overhanging leaves, silhouetted against the sky. Horizon (with mountains) is about 1/3 of the way up the frame… from there upward is a view of the sky, which holds a beautiful galaxy, viewed at an angle but close to face-on, core and spiral arms fully visible. The artist has put initials in the corner, STK 03. Evidently a view from a planet a ways outside the main galaxy, perhaps in an orbiting dwarf galaxy.

  33. Hoverwolf1

    I like this one as is. The person in the foreground really does give this a sense of exploration. In keeping with that, and if you feel you absolutely MUST change something, then I would change the rocks in the water on the left to a ship, possibly crashed. Still, I like this one.

    If you feel like re-doing another classic, may I suggest “Digital Blasphemy HQ?” I’m sure that with your new rig, you could make an incredible image.

  34. suab

    The picture is very nice Ryan, however, it feels as if it was slightly tilted to one side. I know this is (probably) just an optical illusion created by the sea and the beach at the bottom of the picture, but it still feels distracting to me…

    Should you ever consider creating another version, you might want to keep this in mind and change the bottom of the picture a little bit…

  35. Logan

    Nice job as usual. This one’s going on the desktop. However I think the person might be a tad too close to the bottom of the image, at least for lower resolutions – my Windows taskbar on my 1366×768 laptop cuts him off at the knees.

  36. Steph

    I really love most DB pictures but please create a triple screen version without the person standing on the beach. For me, the person is disturbing this otherwise beautiful wallpaper.

  37. Jay

    Ryan, your space oriented pieces have always been my favorite. You noted that you messed around with vegetation, yet it didnt look right. Ive noticed most of your pieces focus on the planetary scale i think it would be very interesting to see something more focused, like the surface of an alien planet with odd fauna etc. I hope you give the idea a though

  38. Jenna

    It looks, to me, more like an exploding star, than a “cluster”. I’d love to see something like this, but with a… I guess a “smoother” look? More like the Milky Way.

    Either way, beautiful piece. πŸ˜€

  39. Ross H.

    This is absolutely amazing! Awesome work, Ryan!

  40. Trav

    I stand corrected πŸ™‚

    interesting points you said, and that does make sense. very cool that you’re an astrophysicist, that’s a fascinating field of science.

  41. Geep

    I really love those rocks in the picture. For some reason, my eye is drawn right to them. Its an exceptional view and I really like it. Its going straight to my screen. πŸ™‚ (along with Circumpolar, which has been on for a while :).)

  42. kellzilla

    I’m always wondering whether a space view or a planet view is better, and I think this one I would prefer to see only the cluster. I think it may be the odd texture on the rocks putting me off.

  43. celmendo

    I rated it one too low, it’s a 9. Dragons would be epic, I agree. I’m sure you’ll fiddle with it but it’s pretty great as is.

  44. Littlemom

    This is a very pretty planetscape. I love it. I agree with Jesse it does remind me of some of your earlier work, but that is a compliment it’s amazing Ryan

  45. Cougz

    Oooooooh ! Just fabulous !

  46. Cougz

    Oooooooh ! Just fabulous !

  47. Daniel B

    Funny thing, last night I was reading about the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy in Wikipedia… it is in a polar orbit around the Milky Way, and is about 50k light years away (compared to our 100k wide galaxy). Considering that at times it would be face on due to the polar orbit, I was thinking the view would from there would amazing.

    Then less than 24 hours later you post this. Well done sir.

    As for the person, I think it is a little out of place by itself… perhaps an identifiable alien, or a human + spacecraft. This image screams exploration to me.

  48. VSanchez

    I really enjoy your landscapes like these. I am glad to be a lifetime member and am waiting for the dual screen render. πŸ™‚

  49. GeneralB


  50. anna_writr

    I like the nifty scoured rocks that look like they’ve taken a few meteor hits.

  51. Tatiana

    Ah, much better, thank you.

    And you’re welcome. =)

  52. Ryan

    Yes, the stars being cut off was an error on my part. That’s what I get for doing my final edits in a bright sunlit room! I’ve re-uploaded a fixed version (all resolutions) that should correct the issue. Thanks for the heads up (and for your scientific analysis!).

  53. Tatiana


    Actually, stars in a globular cluster are mostly the same temperature and age so they look similar. Only a smattering of stars are blue, for instance, which Ryan has faithfully depicted. Also, in highly concentrated clusters like M75, you can’t really see the core at all. The dust looks fine to me as well. In short, as an astrophysicist, I approve of this wallpaper. =)

    (I do agree that the stars look almost painted when you zoom in, but I kind of like that. I guess I’m too familiar with the real thing and just want something slightly different. =P)

  54. Eric

    I enjoy this render, Ryan. I feel as if the individual could be used differently, he (or she) seems to be a little out of place. Aside from that, I love the astrological possibility you explore here.

  55. Trav

    I think the stars could have a little more variety in their color, as real stars appear in different colors based of their temperature and age. The cluster looks more like something out of a painting than something real in outer space (for example, the space dust in the clouds don’t look very realistic…also, you can’t see much of the “core” of the cluster). The clouds near the ground, however, look amazing. And I think the person was a great idea. It really seems to demonstrate how the heart of man craves exploration πŸ™‚

  56. Tatiana

    Even though you didn’t intend for it to be one. =P

    I like the person in the foreground. Gives the whole scene a sense of scale. I especially like the rock formations–sharp and forbidden looking. The clouds are a nice touch as well.

    One little quibble: In the upper left corner, there’s an invisible line where the stars just stop. Is that intentional?

  57. Nelson

    @Trifid: Well, why not? On earth, there are also places without vegetation, and still you sometimes see people there πŸ˜‰ Just imagine, a few hundred meters in the back there are plants^^

  58. Trifid

    Love the new render Ryan. Along the lines of your own comment around the lack of vegetation, the person seems out of place.

  59. Nelson

    Wow, I love the interesting forms of rocks and clouds! It’s great without vegetation, I think. Not everywhere must grow something πŸ™‚

    I find, the cluster looks as it were very near, but that can’t be as it has an enormous size. Maybe it’s just my imagination^^

  60. Bruno

    This is one of you best wallpapers – I miss the resolution 1600×900

  61. James

    This picture blows my mind every time

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