A blizzard may have thwarted photographer Joshua Nowicki’s Valentine’s Day plans with his wife, but it didn’t stop him from venturing out with his camera and accidentally stumbling upon these otherworldly plains of sand spires on Lake Michigan's shore.
Nowicki, who lives in St. Joseph, Michigan, postponed his Saturday dinner date due to the weather conditions. Instead, his wife encouraged him to go to Silver Beach County Park, where he found the small mounds that strong winds had carved into bulbous, almost futuristic shapes.
"I am fascinated by the way that the lake and lake shore are constantly transformed by the water, ice and wind,” Nowicki said in an email to The Huffington Post.
Nowicki set out Saturday night to see how the weather had affected the photogenic St. Joseph lighthouse, which in past years has built up jagged, dramatic coats of ice formed by waves crashing onto the pier. But the lake around the pier had frozen solid, so there had been no more buildup since Nowicki last saw the lighthouse. His trip looked like a bust.
As Nowicki walked home, however, he began to see the sand formations. The tallest reached a foot in height, and the largest patch extended about 30 square feet, he said.
He laid on the ground to take eye-level photos and continued until it got dark. The next morning, many of the structures had eroded, and by Monday, Nowicki said, they had dried out. Only small piles of sand remained.
Nowicki’s photographs have been shared online far and wide, with some comparing the formations to the more permanent and much larger hoodoo rock spires in Utah. Those who've seen the images seem to be fascinated by the strange phenomenon; while Nowicki said he has seen a similar occurrence on the beach before, most people likely never will. But if his photographs inspire others to explore nature in winter, they might see something equally unique: as nature photographers who relish extreme winter weather know, braving the cold can open up a new world.
“It is truly amazing,” Nowicki said about working in winter. “Every day I find something new that catches my attention.”