Striking images reveal Lake Erie’s violent and unpredictable side

If you’ve ever visited the Great Lakes on a clear summer’s day, it might be hard to believe that they’ve caused thousands of shipwrecks, including the notable SS Edmund Fitzgerald. But these ominous ocean-like images of Lake Erie show just how volatile these bodies of water can be.

Professional photographer Dave Sandford captured these photos a few hundred feet off shore, near the small lakeside community of Port Stanley, Ontario. Wetsuit-clad he dove into the frigid November waters with his camera, a few different lenses, and some protective gear to capture a side of the lake many have never seen before.

While Sandford’s day job is photographing professional sports, like many cottagers, he’s most passionate about spending time in, on or around the water.

“Oceans and lakes beckon me,” he writes. “Since I was a kid, I’ve loved the sheer, raw power and force of it, captivated by the graceful movement of a wave and mesmerized by light dancing across it.”

Though that’s hardly the scene he captured in these images. This collection of photos was taken in late fall, a time of year when Sandford says “the Great Lakes can act more like oceans than lakes.”

With water temperatures hovering around 11 degrees Celsius, high winds, and waves reaching as high as 25 feet, most people stay away from the lake this time of year—and for good reason. But for the better part of a month, Sandford drove to Lake Erie from his home in London two-to-three days a week, spending hours at a time in the water, just to get these shots.

“It’s days like these when Erie comes alive, showing its true power,” he writes. “These are the days I can’t wait to get to the lake and create images!”

To see more of Sandford’s images, or to order prints, you can visit his website or his Facebook page.