Powerful Winds Carve Surreal Sand Sculptures Across a Frozen Beach

Frozen Sand in Michigan

Nature can be its own artist, and photographers are the ones who help chronicle these amazing creations before they disappear. Joshua Nowicki did just this after a particularly chilly weekend in St. Joseph, Michigan. Powerful winds acted as a sculptor and transformed the landscape of Tiscornia Park Beach into a surreal otherworld where small pedestals arose from the icy terrain. The photographer snapped portraits of the unusual sight against the backdrop of crashing waves and a pink gradient sky.

“The sand formations (some people liken them to hoodoos) caused by wind erosion of the beach can occur at any time of the year (though it is rare) if there is wet sand and sustained high winds for several days,” Nowicki explains to My Modern Met. “However, they only get bigger than a couple of inches when the sand is frozen (from rain, melted snow, spray from crashing waves).”

The sand structures seen in these photos represent some of the tallest ones that Nowicki has ever photographed; the largest is about 15 inches tall. “To photograph them, I laid down on the beach and used a 20mm lens or a 135mm lens,” he shares. Time was of the essence. “They do not last very long (usually only a couple of days), the wind completely erodes them or knocks them down. If the temperature goes up above freezing, they crumble; and often in the winter, they soon get covered by drifting snow.”

Though fleeting, this is exactly why Nowicki likes to photograph them. “I really enjoy how different they are each shaped and how ephemeral they are. Depending on the weather they may only last a day or two. You have to be there at just the right moment to capture them with the most definition of shape.”

This isn’t the first time that the photographer has snapped pictures of the sand formations, but it did represent something different. “This year there were so many of them that the biggest challenge was trying to figure out which ones to focus on,” he says. “I tried to capture a range of the various shapes and sizes.”

As predicted, the formations didn’t last long. When Nowicki went back to the beach a few days later, he saw that they had mostly deteriorated and were shells of their former glory.

Photographer Joshua Nowicki captured the otherworldly sight of frigid sand formations at Tiscornia Park Beach in Michigan.

Frozen Sand Pillars in Michigan Frozen Sand in Michigan Frozen Sand Pillars in Michigan Frozen Sand Pillars in Michigan Frozen Sand Pillars in Michigan Frozen Sand Pillars in Michigan Frozen Sand in Michigan

Joshua Nowicki: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Joshua Nowicki.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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