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West Beach

Submitted by: Stephen Lehman

For the busy adventurer Location: Cost: Free Hours: Closes at dusk What to expect: beach, dune trail, shower house

West Beach is by far my favorite beach to visit in the south shore area. West Beach is home to a beautiful beachfront, shower house, close view of the Chicago skyline, and a trail through the dunes. Although its quite cold, the view is spectacular on a clear day. This beach, like many others in the area, closes at dusk but remains open through the winter (pending emergency weather conditions). The first thing you will notice as you walk down the path towards the shower house and beach area are the massive dunes to the east.


Just before sunset, there is an event known as “golden hour”. During golden hour (starting roughly an hour before sunset), the sun begins to illuminate the landscape with a golden glow. Luckily, I just happened to roll into West Beach during this time providing an optimal setting for shooting landscapes. Our area is perfect for golden hour photography and exploring because of the golden beach grass and rolling sand dunes. It seems to intensify the effect and the blues skies provide the perfect contrast for our golden landscapes. As you walk towards the beach you’ll see the bath house, which is very clean and convenient. During the summer, it provides a place to clean up before heading home. It sure beats having to vacuum out your car because of all the sand!


The lake lies on the other side of the bath house. The photo above displays the unparalleled beauty of West Beach. If you look hard enough, you can see a freighter out in the lake. I know it’s freezing cold outside, especially with the recent cold front that passed through, but I would recommend a visit to West Beach in the near future. This beach is slightly rocky and home to a decent amount of driftwood. While it may not be ideal for activities such as frisbee or volleyball, it is great for long walks, exploring, and photography.


Unfortunately, West Beach is surrounded by steel mills. I try to look on the bright side and see the mills as eerie, smoke emitting structures that help add depth and contrast to the natural environment of Lake Michigan’s south shore. Regardless, I hold true to my statement that I believe West Beach to be my favorite beach in the Dig the Dunes region. If you continue west down the beach, you will see a sign that reads “Succession Trail” pointing inland. I decided to explore that trail in hopes of another beautiful moment to capture.


To my excitement, I found exactly what I was hoping for. After a tiring trek through the dunes, I was met with this beautiful sunset. The blues, golds, and even the jet streams complete this moment. Moments like these aren’t easy to capture. A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time, but there is also a skill in being prepared and when and how to press the shutter button. With that being said, all of my photos are available for printing. I can pretty much cater to any of your sizing or material needs. If you’re interested in purchasing prints, please visit my contact page (link below).


Just before the sun disappeared, I was able to capture this image. I used a technique called HDR or “High Dynamic Range.” HDR photography is done by taking multiple exposures at different exposure levels. This is done by taking an underexposed (dark), perfectly exposed, and overexposed (bright) image and combining them into one. This allows all the details in the shadows and in the highlighted areas to be seen in a breathtaking manner. I love the way the sun reflects off of the boardwalk railings during golden hour. Oh yes, and that’s another reason to get out to West Beach this winter: the sun will begin setting further west as spring draws near. If you don’t get out to West Beach within the next few months, you won’t be able to witness a moment like this!

I hope I’ve encouraged and inspired you to get out this winter despite the cold temperatures. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to use the form below to contact me. Thank you for your continued support for Dig the Dunes.

If you would like to order prints of any of my work, please contact me here

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