You’ve never seen the Great Lakes like this.

By Lauren Phillips
January 13, 2017

After summer ends and vacationers leave the Great Lakes, the water can get a little wild—and these photographs of Lake Erie in action by photographer Dave Sandford put the unbelievable power of the Great Lakes on full display.

Sandford gets up close and personal with the waves to capture his stunning shots, going so far as to get in the lake while the water roils around him. He only has a handful of days each winter to capture these shots—the waves don’t come every day. But when they do, he’s right there with them.

Once he’s taken his pictures (and dried off from the lake waters, which can be less than 40 degrees), his work isn’t over. “I take my time and go in and burn and dodge each image to bring out the texture and feel of the water,” Sandford says. “I think that’s something that helps my images stand apart from the crowd.”

Sandford sells prints of his wave photographs—and his other work—at His Instagram accounts, @davesandford and @sandfordpix, also showcase his work, with the occasional behind-the-scenes shot of him in action.

What causes waves on the Great Lakes?

The Great Lakes don’t have strong tides like the ocean (NOAA estimates that the largest true tide on the Great Lakes is less than five centimeters in height), so any waves on their surfaces are caused by strong winds and rapid changes in atmospheric pressure.

Waves on the lakes can be more than 25 feet tall, and extremely dangerous standing waves called seiches can sometimes occur, when all the water in the lake sloshes from shore to shore, causing seawalls and area floods. According to NOAA, Lake Erie is particularly known for its powerful seiches (in addition to its choppy waves).

Scroll on to see more of Sandford’s amazing shots of waves on Lake Erie:

All images courtesy of Dave Sandford.