For those of you who don’t know me, I am Dave Sandford, a professional photographer of 20 years from London, Ontario, Canada. I grew up right in the heart of the Great Lakes region. Just over two years ago, I finally obtained the photo gear I had long desired to acquire, which would enable me to shoot our lakes and oceans the way I had always envisioned. Armed with new Canon cameras and protective gear from Aquatech, I was ready to take on the 11th largest lake in the world, Lake Erie, and create what evolved into my ‘Liquid Mountains’ series.
Only 40km south of my home, just off the shores of the village of Port Stanley, Ontario, is where I had my sights set on. It is in these shallow waters of Lake Erie that Mother Nature can truly put on a uniquely spectacular display of power in the form of wind and waves, at this time of the year. Often referred to as ‘The Gales of November’ or ‘The Witch of November’, these systems of warm air from the south collide with cold arctic air from the north over the Great Lakes, creating powerful windstorms, which can wreak havoc on the lakes. These winds can push the envelope into ‘category 1’ hurricane strength, having the potential of turning the shallowest of the Great Lakes into a raging inland sea (Lake Erie averages 62 feet in depth). With waves reaching heights upwards of 25 feet, these storm surges can cause flooding and waters chaotic enough to bring the largest fresh water fishing industry in the world to a halt, with temperatures that plummet well below the freezing mark.
This is a shallow lake that has deep emotion and for myself, it has become my most favorite time of the year. Erie’s incredible display of power gives me the opportunity to transform the miserable, to the marvelous. The massive waves that form and break in the blink of an eye cannot truly be appreciated with the naked eye. It isn’t until you slow them down or freeze them for a moment in time, that you can truly appreciate the marvel of motion in the water. This location provides such a uniquely breaking wave, that I continuously hear from people all over the world, that they have never before seen waves that look like these. I myself have never been witness to such unique waves in any other lake or ocean. What makes these waves even more individual is the fact that the lake only reveals itself like this a handful of days in a year.
It is said that lakes only reveal their secrets to the people who take the time to linger patiently beside their shores, and I have spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours in, on, or around the shores of Lake Erie in my lifetime. Never for a moment have I ever thought I’ve seen it all, not when it comes to this body of water. There are so many stories and so many legends and folklore that surround the mysterious water of Lake Erie. The more time I spend with her, the more I believe these stories exist for a reason. This lake is alive. There is an energy about it that I find I connect with. While it may sound strange to others, I truly feel as if I have a connection with water, but especially with Lake Erie. Even when she is at her worst, I find myself calm and in tune with her. Never so comfortable as to let my guard down, (she commands the utmost respect), but collected enough to concentrate and zone in on the task at hand, capturing her beautifully violent display of power. She has laid claim to a massive amount of shipwrecks dating back to the 17th century. She is a watery grave. It is almost as if you can see the souls of the deceased trying to escape the depths of the lake, but she reaches up to pull them back down to the cold, dark waters. It is said that Lake Erie has many faces. While this is true for how quickly the lake changes moods, I believe it to be true of the spirits of the lake, which seem to so often reveal themselves in the waves.
I owe a great deal to Lake Erie. Not only has the lake provided me with fresh water, food, many great times with family and friends, it has also provided me with some of the most powerful imagery of my photographic career. The images I have created from Lake Erie ‘Liquid Mountain’ series, have opened up doors I had only dreamt of before. Because of these images, I have been given opportunities to go on photographic assignments around the world, from the polar icecaps of the Arctic, to the depths of the Southern Ocean, off of South Australia. From Polar Bears to Great White Sharks, icebergs to reef breaks, I am forever grateful for the opportunities that Lake Erie’s Liquid Mountains have provided me.
More info: davesandfordphotos.com