Sand Dunes – The Ever Changing Landscape of the Beach

As a photographer living in a coastal area trips to the beach are a regular occurrence. When visiting the beach much of my attention revolves around the water, seascapes and beachscapes and the various shorebird found there. For much of the warmer months a lot of the dune areas are off-limits… protecting the nesting and nursery areas for a variety of coastal and oceanic birds. In the winter months the ropes come down and it becomes possible to explore and, more importantly, photograph these amazing natural features. In a constant state of change, being shaped and reshaped by wind, rain and waves, the dune zone is a dynamic and interesting environment to visit. Here are a few of my more recent fine art photographs made in the dune zone.

The sun is starting to set over the sand dunes at the Point in Emerald Isle North Carolina creating a dramatic sky. The sand dunes display a variety of interesting textures in tihs windswept landscape Between these sandy hills waves lap up onto the beach in the distance. It is a love scene on this early Spring evening. This area, known as “the Point,” is at the western end of the Crystal Coast. Protected by state and town regulations, it is a large open dunescape habitat that is home to various nesting shorebirds during the warmer months. A haven for feathered creatures, it is also a popular location for beachcombers, sun worshipers and saltwater fishermen. It is an ever-changing landscape, shaped by wind and wave.

A sand dune along the shore at Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. As the sun is near setting the light produces a stark contrast between the lit and shadowed areas. The ridged shaped by the wind creates a gentle S-curve that forms a twisted spine along the back of the dune. Vegetation left over from the warmer months springs up like coarse hair atop the sandy hill. It is early March and Spring approaches. Soon the plant life will turn green. Shore birds will build nests and raise their young within the protection of the dune line. Storms, summer winds and rain will reshape the dune. Nature’s cycle of life and change goes on. Fort Macon was the second property to be designated as a State Park in North Carolina, as well as the first to be opened to the public. One of the state’s most popular parks, it features a historic earth and brick fort, a lovely beach and a hiking trail that passes through the maritime forest, over the dunes and along the beach. It is one of the most visited parks in NC.

A small bit of a sand fence remains exposed at the Point, Emerald Isle, North Carolina. Shifting sands have overtaken the old, wooden structure, helping the due it once held back to grow. Structures such as this can be used to hold back encroaching sand to keep pathways open or, as in this case, be an integral part of beach recovery. Discarded Christmas trees are also used in the rebuilding of sand dunes along the coast. Dunes are the first line of defense against enchroaching waves during coastal storms. “The Point” is a large, natural area located at the tip of Bogue Banks, a barrier island along the NC coast. Local regulations are in place to insure the area is free of development to help protect this Crystal Coast community and to maintain the Bogue Inlet. During mush of the year the dunes are off-limits to foot traffic and are used as nesting areas for endangered shorebirds. Areas such as this are essential coastal eco-systems.

I came upon this large sand dune while walking the beach at Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. I liked the way the light played on its ridges and curves. The dramatic clouds overhead added to the appeal of the scene Wind, rain and waves shape and reshape these natural sand hills. Change is constant on the beach. I’m sure this dune will look much different on my next visit. Fort Macon State Park is located at the eastern end of a barrier island named Bogue Banks. The old earth and brick structure stood guard over Beaufort Inlet in the 1800s. It was captured by Union forces during the Civil War and also saw some use during the World Wars. One of the state’s first parks it is also one of the most frequently visited

A sand fence at the Point at Emerald Isle, North Carolina is slowly being covered over. These fences can be used to stop sand from filling in pathways as well as helping to create new dunes for protection from erosion. This black and white photo was created during a recent trip to the Point, Emerald Isle, North Carolina.

Golden sunlight bathes the sand dunes at the Point in Emerald Isle North Carolina. Shadows cast across ripples in the sand add texture to the view. Tall sea grass grows from the top of the sandy slopes. This large expanse of beach located at the southern tip of Bogue Banks is known as “the Point.” Popular with both locals and vacationers, it is a great place for fishing, sunbathing, bird watching and beach combing.

Let me know what you think. Do you find the dune zone and interesting environment worthy of exploration and photography?

This entry was posted in General Photography, Landscape Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Uncategorized.


  1. Louis Dallara March 23, 2022 at 7:56 am #

    Hello Bob, I love the way you captured the Emerald Isle, North Carolina sand dunes. I’m not sure why I’m drawn to fences on the beach, but I like those images best. Tho I usually try and remove the hand of man from my images, It’s a fine art thing, Like I said try.
    They add some cool lines to the image and sell to the beach crowd.

  2. Steven Heap March 23, 2022 at 10:59 am #

    Great imagery! I also like dunes in particular and these look great in black and white. The details in the fence posts is well captured as well!

  3. jim hughes March 24, 2022 at 3:47 pm #

    I really like the one with the fence.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *