Normandy sand

Images taken in a controlled environment or with a posed subject. All subject types.

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Joined: Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:26 pm
Location: Huntingdon, TN

Normandy sand

Post by Bugeyes »

When viewed at 7.5x magnification, plain old sand shows some interesting personality.

These stacks are plain, brown beach sand magnified 7.5x times. The sand happens to be from the five D-Day (June 6, 1944) landing beaches on the Normandy coast that were coded as "Utah", "Omaha", "Gold", "Juno", and "Sword". I "smuggled" back to the USA a few ounces of sand from each of these beaches while touring all of them during a business trip to France in the late 1990's. I recently rediscovered the samples in a closet and decided to do some stacking shots of this sand to see what the particles really look like. (Inspiration for this came from Beatsy's Oct 10 post. Nice work, dude.) The stacks took from 62 to 132 shots.

What is interesting about the sand is the unexpected range of colors found in the tiny sand particles. Orange, red, and yellow particles predominate in all the samples but these colors combine with particles in the blue and green spectrum to cause the sand to have a brown-ish, tan-ish, semi-neutral color that is very dull, at least when viewed from a distance. Of course, it's a whole different world at the “grains of sand” level. All the particles in the images are correctly sized relative to each other, since the images are all at the same magnification and are not cropped.

This hobby is always full of surprises.

Here are the samples viewed normally. Note the differences in coarseness.


Utah beach. Somewhat fine sand but with some coarse particles.


Omaha beach. Very fine sand and very uniform. Somewhat like 200-grit abrasive.


Gold beach. About 50/50 mixture of coarse and fine sand.


Juno beach. Very coarse sand. Has somewhat fewer dark-red particles than the samples from the other beaches.


Sword beach. Very coarse sand, similar to Juno, but with a wider range of colored particles. Particles from this beach seem somewhat more “rounded” (weathered) than sand from Juno.


Thanks to everyone on this forum.

Chris S.
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Post by Chris S. »


Very interesting and evocative post. Well done!

As I have an interest in the events at each of these beaches on June 6 1944, I find my view of these images shaped by details of what occurred over each of the separate sands. This is likely as you intended--and it makes an informed review contemplative--perhaps even haunting.

On the other hand, though these images are evocative and interesting, I do wonder if the samples are truly representative of the beaches from which they came. As we know, moving water is very effective at sorting particles by size and density. Because of this, characteristics of a single beach's sand can vary from inshore to offshore, and linearly along the beach as determined by wave and tide. A single storm may change alignments of these elements drastically. I suspect that time constraints had you stopping at each beach at different tide points. If so, could this have impacted your choice of where to sample?

This said, your intent was surely not a scientific undertaking to thoroughly characterize sand strata at these beaches. But rather, a photo essay on sand samples of these beaches where so many men fought, too often died, and where the survivors moved on to reclaim a continent. As such, I think your post performs mightily. Bravo!


--Chris S.

Posts: 11
Joined: Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:26 pm
Location: Huntingdon, TN

Post by Bugeyes »

Thank you for the kind complement, Chris.

You are correct. When I was visiting each beach I simply walked to a point where dry sand was merging into wet sand and scooped up some of the damp sand, as I did not want to muddy my shoes. A 10-meter walk further down the beach would have probably changed any sample to something entirely different. At that time I was collecting these as "keepsakes" or to possibly use in some kind of homemade "display" in honor of the battle. (Placing small national flags of each army in small "pots" of the sand from each beach in some arrangement or plaque for my mantel, perhaps.) Photographing the sand never entered my mind. The sand samples had been hidden in a closet for 18-20 years before I rediscovered them a few days ago. I was amazed at how the combination of particle colors resulted in the dull brown color of the samples. The fact that the particle types varied some from sample to sample was pure accident. I kept the samples in five envelopes embossed with "Paris Hilton" for all those years! The envelopes were from the hotel where I was staying, as I could think of anything else to use to collect with before I began my tour of the beaches!

Lou Jost
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Post by Lou Jost »

What an interesting post!!

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Post by Sumguy01 »

:smt038 Very nice.
Thanks for sharing.

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