There are few places as special to me as the sand dunes along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan at dawn—regardless of weather or the time of year. I love the sense, even if not necessarily real, of being alone in an environment that could almost be prehistoric. Some mornings it is quiet, punctuated by a distant Sandhill Crane or the whir of a dragonfly. Other mornings it can be wild beyond imagining, sand blowing over and into everything, changing and shaping the landscape right in front of me.
I recently spent three mornings in the dunes near Ludington. As it happened all three were quiet times. These are some of the small patterns I saw in the sand—textures, shadows, sand falls and tracks of creatures left the night before.
Without wind there are no dunes. It is exciting to see this process happening actively. I made this photograph several years ago at the last minute of a sunset on a windy Lake Michigan beach with the blowing sand literally creating the texture of the photograph:
At other times I end up finding only the tracks of where the wind has been. It spins the small stems and roots of plants around and around leaving these magical dune circles, either full or partial:
Add a shadow of beach grass and a bit of texture from rain the night before and the result is quite stunning:
Even the patterns of the dead plants against the sand are fascinating and, I think, often beautiful in their simple, balanced form:
Although I know the real world of the dunes is an immensely complex environment, so much of life there seems striped down to a few basic, simple elements: sand, wind, extremes of temperature, the creatures who make it home. It is a place I always treasure being able to visit.