NON-FICTION, 319 words.
Copyright 2012 Ara Hagopian.
Ocean water is often described as peaceful. When writers go the other route and talk about the stormy sea, we’re left with two images: a calm, peaceful bay, and violent, crashing waves.
What’s often overlooked is the silent power that occurs underwater. Four times a day, the tide moves millions of gallons of seawater in a claim and cede pattern. With this movement comes a massive relocation of sand, no matter the weather above.
Every six hours, a ten-foot shift of water level carves oddly-shaped tracks, which when dried, can feel either hard as rock or as cushy as stale cake. The patterns left behind are not merely alternative surfaces of the earth. What we see are temporary marks, grooves, textures and elevations belonging to areas of the beach that react in unique ways—and are destined to be obliterated and reborn within hours.
Photo Card #232 illustrates how a retreat-based low tide system works. The cover shot, which at an aperture setting of f/22 is packed with edge-to-edge detail, tells the story: as seawater pulls back, various-sized evacuation channels are formed into the sand. Larger grooves are cut for the majority of the water, while trace trickles form tiny capillary-style grooves. Eventually the water pools, and as a result the sand bordering the pool becomes saturated and crumbles. The resulting collapse forms a steep angle as viscosity—and gravity—take over.
The pool in the rear cover photo is misleading–the depth looks shallow but it’s over three-feet deep. This pool would make a choice cooling off spot on a summer day.
The claim and cede of the tide pulls tons of sand along the way. The relentless shift produces beautiful patterns on the sandbar and adjoining plateaus as the sea retreats from high to low tide.