Most people don’t like going to the beach when it’s below freezing and the winds are blowing at 75 kilometers per hour. But Dave Sandford isn’t most people.
Sporting his wetsuit on a cold winter’s day, the 48-year-old strode along the Port Stanley shore and got his camera gear ready.
Waves come and go from different directions. “It’s like a washing machine,” Sandford says, describing the scene. “You get the waves refracting on that jetty and coming back in the directions of the wind-driven waves.”
There is a constant hammering in the air. “It’s like a freight train, constantly moving,” he said.
In the few hours he spends photographing the shore, whether in the water or on the pier, it is not uncommon to encounter massive waves. However, it is rare to find one close to 20 feet.
But one day in December, in conditions similar to those described above, Sandford photographed what he describes as “standing water” – a towering 20ft wave captured in a tiny split second.
It was a moment of “absolute awe”, he said. “You look at this photo, and to me it practically defies the laws of gravity.”
Q: This series is called Liquid Mountains. What is the inspiration behind the name?
“This is from my good friend Warren (Keelan), an ocean photographer based in Australia. I met him (about seven years ago) via Instagram. I wanted to know where to go to shoot and get some landmarks because I don’t didn’t grow up near the ocean. He taught me how to shoot in water. So when I started filming this, after I produced some footage, he called me once and told me said, ‘It looks like liquid mountains.’ I was like, ‘That’s awesome!’ »
Q: You said you mainly shoot nature and wildlife now. When did you make this change?
“I still do sports photography and I still work for the National Hockey League, but that has changed dramatically over the years. I’m lucky to have had a very successful career in professional sports photography, but the attraction to nature and wildlife has always been there and it has grown stronger over time. It was really the 2015 series that opened the doors to nature and wildlife for me and really started giving me opportunities for that side of my career.
Q: What are the weather conditions like when these photos were taken? Do you plan ahead or decide spontaneously to go and shoot?
I’m a bit addicted to the weather, so it’s very useful for what I do. I always look at two factors, what the weather is doing and more specifically, the wind. From late September until this time of year, I constantly watch (my wind app) because (the wind is) what generates the waves. I generally look for sustained winds of 50 km/h and more. Ideally, I like to have conditions where you get those dark, threatening thunderclouds, but not just a big, flat, overcast sky. When you get those kind of cold clouds that hold the precipitation and there are holes in the clouds where you get the light shining through. This is my favorite because it really pops those waves.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of sharing photos like these with the world?
At the start of this series, I think the most rewarding factor was its uniqueness. A lot of people have told me, whether it’s journalists, people I meet on the street or on social networks, it was the uniqueness. And to think now, I can say in 2015 that at that exact time and time, I was able to go out there and capture something the world had never seen before.
Museum of London: shop.museumlondon.ca/collections/dave-sandford
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