Photographer Finds Otherworldly Sand Sculptures Created by Wind

Frozen sand formations on the shore of Lake Michigan

Photographer Joshua Nowicki encountered a unique natural phenomenon that formed along the coast of Lake Michigan – temporary sand formations resembling rock structures also known as hoodoos.

Nowicki’s background lies in anthropology first and photography second. Having worked in several different museums, he was once commissioned to update the website and graphic design of one of them. He acquired a DSLR and began taking promotional photos for the organization, making it his first foray into the field of photography.

An area that inspires photographers

Nowicki eventually moved to southwest Michigan, a popular destination for those who enjoy sandy beaches and green parks. Unsurprisingly, the location gave way to nature and landscape photography which Nowicki began to make the most of, albeit just for personal enjoyment at first.

He posted his photos on Facebook that showed off the area’s natural beauty, and soon others began sharing his photos. His father wanted to encourage his hobby and bought a DSLR as a gift, although Nowicki was reluctant to accept the gesture at first. However, the camera ignited his passion and he soon left the museum to pursue photography and now covers a range of different genres.

Frozen sand formations on the shore of Lake Michigan

Nowicki goes out almost daily to take pictures of Lake Michigan, a prominent feature of the area. While filming at Tiscornia Park Beach in St. Joseph, he came across interesting sand formations. Although he has photographed them in the past, this time his discovery is quite impressive – the sculptures were larger than usual, about 15 inches in length, and also had a variety of shapes.

The series he created was originally spotted by enormous It looks like a scene from another planet.

Sand and frigid winds form unique formations

For these shapes to form, the area needs several days of strong winds, cool temperatures, and moist sand. It is rare but can happen at any time of the year, which makes it more difficult to predict. However, the only time formations get larger than a few inches is when the sand has solidified.

Frozen sand formations on the shore of Lake Michigan

Anyone interested in taking pictures of the phenomenon should be quick because sand sculptures don’t last long – only a couple of days at most.

“They are completely eroded or dropped by the winds, if the temperature rises above freezing, they collapse, and they are often covered by drifting snow in winter,” says Nowicki. Petapixel.. “I really enjoy how far they are gone; you have to be there at the right moment to capture them well defined.”

Frozen sand formations on the shore of Lake Michigan

Nowicki used the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a variety of lenses – the Sigma 20mm f/1.8, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 and Canon EF 135mm f/2 – to capture different compositions before the sandy formations were all but gone.

“To photograph it, I got down to ground level to better see what it looked like and also to help keep it off the rest of the sand,” he says. “I didn’t have to worry about taking them off because they were in spots of 30 or more and there was plenty of room between sets.”

Frozen sand formations on the shore of Lake Michigan

“I was delighted to find a group of them in a location where I could photograph them and the lighthouse. Including the lighthouse in the photos revealed its location, and within a day there were a lot of people on the beach filming it. It was amazing how popular they had become. I’ve had so many inquiries that She asks if she’s still there. Unfortunately, they have a bigger order that collapsed.”

More of Nowicki’s work can be found on his website and Instagram page.


Image credits: Joshua Nowicki’s photo.

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