“Here Comes the Sun” by Cynthia Gladis

Long walks on the beach in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina have always been a source of joy for me. I usually carry a camera, as I’m fascinated by patterns in the sand and have photographed them for years. The sand on this particular beach is extremely fine, and is shaped in interesting ways by the tide, the wind, and the weather. These are my “Sand Stories.”

There are also varied forms of marine life that color the sand in unexpected ways. My favorite are the ghost shrimp (AKA glass shrimp) — tiny, transparent creatures that burrow straight down into the sand. Since the shrimp, like most creatures, do not like to excrete where they eat, they propel their excrement up through the hole they’ve burrowed and one can see it shooting out in pellets from what look like tiny volcanos. Each shrimp produces somewhere in the vicinity of 500 pellets, per day. The pellets disintegrate in the sea water and color the sand black and various shades of brown. When the tide recedes and the sand dries, the wind carries it along and mixes it with the clean, white sand. The result is an unending supply of gorgeous, natural abstracts.

Sometimes the patterns are just plain beautiful, but I often experience pareidolia and see other things in them, such as this “sun and rays.” There are days that I walk and see nothing. Other days I feel that the shrimp have seen me coming and tried their best to please me. The day I made this image was one of those days.

When I discover an interesting pattern such as this one, I frame it in a few different ways, often with titles coming to me as I work the scene. The patterns are my raw material and I enjoy doing some cleanup and color/tonal adjustment to bring the images to what I saw in my mind’s eye.

I love nature’s bounty of beauty, even if it’s the result of prolifically excreting sea creatures, and I enjoy sharing it.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

This image, as well as my other “Sand Stories,” are natural phenomena, and enhanced by my choice of processing.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

I wouldn’t change a thing, as Mother Nature knows what she’s doing.

Cynthia Gladis shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Cynthia Gladis, New Jersey, USA


Equipment and settings

Fujifilm X-T2, XF18-135mm lens (thankfully both weather sealed, as I’m still cleaning the fine sand from the rubber grips and detents).
f/6, 1/500 sec., ISO 200, focal length 38.9.

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Comments (16):

  1. Frank Styburski

    July 31, 2021 at 00:50

    So glad to see your work recognized here, Cynthia.
    I admire it every day in the Frames Facebook Group.
    I’ve tried to make similar images and always abandoned them. They never had that complexity of nuance, and spark that you are able to coax out of your subject.
    There must be something special about the alchemy you bring to this place where the earth meets water and sky.

    I’m glad that you made this image and shared it with us.

    • Cynthia Gladis

      August 4, 2021 at 22:55

      Thanks so much, Frank! I’m so glad you enjoy my Sand Stories.

  2. Elizabeth Klanac

    July 31, 2021 at 02:50

    Congratulations on the recognition of your Sand Stories work. I appreciate the full natural explanation for this phenomenon. It blows my mind, these secrets of the natural world. I love and appreciate your vision, how you see is truly extraordinary. That and your skill at editing really enable you to tell some unique stories regardless if they are in the sand or in the back of a mall shopping strip. I encourage anyone who takes a look at your work to follow that and look up your work on your website that you have recently created. To see all those sand stories together in one amalgamation is an amazing experience.

    • Cynthia Gladis

      August 4, 2021 at 22:56

      Elizabeth, thanks for your wonderful comment! You have a way of making me see my own work through others’ eyes, and I really appreciate it!

  3. Steve Smart

    July 31, 2021 at 10:32

    I’ve also enjoyed seeing your work online very much. The collections on your website are excellent. I love the sand stories. There is a real ambiguity about scale which I enjoy, and sometimes pursue in my own images. I wondered initially if some of the sand stories photographs were aerials, but if it’s just you on foot, the texture of sand at Hilton Head Island beach must be really fine! Great to see your work getting noticed here.

    • Cynthia Gladis

      August 4, 2021 at 22:56

      Thank you, Steve! I love it when people think these are aerial shots.

  4. Michael Knaggs

    July 31, 2021 at 11:16

    Cool. Very…

    • Cynthia Gladis

      August 4, 2021 at 22:57

      Thanks, Michael! I know you like the sand, too!

  5. Michael

    August 1, 2021 at 00:52

    I just love these sand stories.Keep them coming!!👏👏👏

    • Cynthia Gladis

      August 4, 2021 at 22:57

      Thanks, Michael!

  6. Terrance Wimmer

    August 10, 2021 at 07:11

    I too lived on Hilton Head Island many years ago. My brother was a harbormaster there for 40 years and I would try to visit him often. I have spent many long walks on the beaches and they are truly magical places. With the rather high tidal flow, that cleans them like an etch-a-sketch twice a day, they are never the same twice. Thank you for your work. You certainly have an endless amount of magic to work with at your feet.

    • Cynthia Gladis

      August 10, 2021 at 15:42

      Terrance, thanks for taking the time to comment. Your comment about the etch-a-sketch rang true, as I posted a photo on my own page a while back of a wave washing away the “brown stuff” and its patterns, and I called it “nature’s etch-a-sketch! It’s nice to meet someone who can relate to this special beach.

  7. Geoff Woods

    August 28, 2021 at 04:32

    I told you would make it. One of my favourites of yours

  8. Judy Parker

    August 29, 2021 at 02:14

    Great to see and read this here, Cynthia. I really admire this series, as subject, execution and interpretation!!! Congratulations, and keep them coming!!! Nature continues to invent and you continue to recognise!!!

    • Cynthia Gladis

      August 30, 2021 at 21:56

      Judy, thanks so much for the kind words! I’m glad you enjoy this series.


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