Sandscapes, Discovering the Art of Nature

The beautiful sandy beach at Seal Cove on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick (1) is one of my favourite summer haunts. It is relatively long, and the sand is hard packed. I was born and raised on Grand Manan, and I recall that before we had an airfield on the island, small planes would occasionally use this beach as a landing strip.

I took a number of photos at this location last summer, and recently I reviewed these as part of a search for abstract images. Let me show you a few examples of what I found in my files.

When the tide is ebbing and exposing the beach, it leaves interesting patterns in the sand. For example, about half way along the beach you can usually find a series of small, closely-packed ridges (2).  This monotone image is really not very interesting, but there are often hidden possibilities in every digital file.  In an effort to find some, I inverted the image and then used solarization to bring out some colour which I intensified by increasing the colour saturation. The end result (3) was an image that I liked well enough to transfer to the abstract gallery of my website (

I case you are wondering, solarization is an old technique that involves deliberate exposure of photographic materials to light for a short period of time during development in order to exaggerate highlights in the image.  Solarization is a challenging hit-or-miss procedure when performed in a darkroom, but it is very easy to accomplish digitally with a filter like the one in Adobe Photoshop.   

But I digress. Let’s get back to the beach.  At the northern end the sand comes in contact with boulders and a rocky outcrop (4).  Drainage from shallow pools in this area produces some intriguing patterns in the sand.  I discovered an area where water was trickling past a large rock and the sand grains were arranged in a branching pattern that looked like two trees (5).

I am really not quite sure how this was accomplished.  The sand was eroded in some places by the trickling water, but the pattern seems to have been produced mainly by the deposition of sand grains.  I was astonished to find this amazing bit of art that had been created by natural forces. Because the pattern was so suggestive of trees, I rotated the image 90 degrees clockwise (6).  To make the arbourization pattern in the sand more evident, I increased the contrast a bit, and then decreased the brightness slightly.  I also increased the saturation in the right half of the image to bring out some colour in the rock.  I was pleased with the final result. This is another image for my abstract gallery.

As I followed the water that was trickling past these rocks, I discovered another sample of Mother Nature’s handiwork (7).  To me, this image is suggestive of a forlorn and devastated World War I battle zone, perhaps a no man’s land in northern France in 1916. Again, the sand pattern looks like trees. In this image the colour of the sand gives a warm sepia tone. Inversion sharpened the image somewhat (8), and the cool blue tones are suggestive of moonlight.  I think I prefer the moonlight version.  

If you would like to comment on this, or any of the other images in this blog, I would be very pleased to hear from you.

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