This photographer turns 30ft waves into liquid mountains

Jan 23, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This photographer turns 30ft waves into liquid mountains

Jan 23, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Photographing water and waves can be one of the most fun and challenging subjects a photographer can try. It’s difficult to really get that size and power across in photographs. It’s often cold, windy, and fraught with all kinds of challenges. For Canadian photographer, Dave Sandford, though, it’s worth the effort.

In this video posted by Great Big Story, we’re taken on a journey with Dave to Lake Erie, where he turns 30ft (9m) high waves into liquid mountains. This is a small segment of Episode 8 from The Weather Channel’s That’s Amazing series.

YouTube video

To go out and make these images, Dave waits for the perfect weather conditions. They may not be perfect for most of us, but they’re perfect for creating great big waves on the water. He wades out into the wind and icy cold water to do whatever it takes to get the shot. Dave’s outfit might look a little silly, and certainly not the attire most of us would wear on a shoot, but essential for him to make the photographs he wants.

Being a large lake, but relatively shallow, compared to the other Great Lakes, creates unique wave conditions. The waves on Lake Erie tend to be closer together, with a lot more of the violence on the white water on top.

– Captain Mike Wilson, retired fisherman

Lake Erie can be an extremely dangerous location, claiming 18 lives last year. So, it takes a lot of planning and preparation to be able to get the shots while remaining as safe as possible. Of course, there is an aspect of adrenaline involved. It’s a rush. Dave doesn’t really have much of an idea what to expect. What’s really going to happen. All he can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Dave says that the time of year plays a big part in how the waves respond to weather conditions. Mid-October through to early December is prime time, when the air is warm, with cold air on the way from the north. The biggest factors, are wind speed and wind direction, and minimum wind speeds Dave hopes for are around 30mph. At the high end, you’re approaching a category 1 hurricane, with wind speeds over 70mph.

If you want to check out the complete That’s Amazing – Episode 8, then look no further.

YouTube video

I visited Lake Erie once a number of years ago, and the weather conditions then certainly weren’t suitable for producing waves like these. It was actually rather glorious sunshine while I was there. I kinda wish I’d been able to stay for a few months now to even just see this first hand. An absolutely incredible looking sight, and beautifully captured.

Have you photographed the waves on Lake Erie? How about elsewhere around the world? Show off some of your own personal favourites in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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