I think I have it down to three possible layout choices. Now, when I get substrate in there things will look different. The rocks will be buried somewhat, the angles might be skewed a touch as I'll be better able to refine them to my liking, and there will be a slope visible which will have an effect on the depth of field.
And then, of course, there are plants to consider. I'll have some of those, too.
So, when I say "final" I have to throw in the caveat, same as before: organic process, etc. Right now, these are the three contenders.
1. "Crane and Turtle"
I think I figured out what was sitting wrong with this one. There are eight stones. The small one at the foot of the main stone (on the right side) is extraneous. I would also elevate the main structure more, and try to angle the entire composition from back to front a little so it is less linear.
2. "Two Spires"
I think I have the height I'm looking for in this latest version of this one. I want to play with lowering (or increasing, depending on your perspective) the angle of the main stone, opening it up more. it is less cramped than previous versions, and I like that it feels less tense. Lowering the angle of the main stone will also help that. I used fewer stones to avoid clutter, and I could even use less, but I'd like to maintain a certain amount of detail.
3. "5 Stone"
"5 Stone" is the one that I believe most closely fits the Iwagumi style. The long flat stone on the left would be able to support a layer of substrate on top so that it could have HC on top of it. This would really bring out the aged feel. The more I look at this, the more I want to see it with the main stone reversed, pointing left. In one way, I think it would create some tension, going against the established pattern, but in others... maybe I'll just try it and see.
It's not like it's set in stone.
Yeah, I just went there. try to suppress that groan/chuckle.
Thoughts are welcome, as I have plenty of time to waste before I can do anything permanent about it, haha...