The Intricate Worlds Within Magnified Sand

Published March 11, 2014
Updated February 1, 2018

Often cast aside as boring, magnified sand opens up an incredible new and diverse world of the granules that compose our favorite destinations.

Sand. For some, it conjures images of tropical beverages and pristine waters. For others, it’s little more than a ubiquitous pest. Either way, we seldom think of those little granules unless we’re surrounded by them.

Sand Magnified

Source: Blogspot

Under the high magnification of a microscope, however, sand takes on a whole different appearance, shedding much of its supposedly homogenous properties for truly unique and diverse compositions. Depending on the sand’s location of origin, it can be made up of tiny rocks, small polished glass pieces, shells, and other gathered minerals and particles.

Magnified Sand Freshwater Beach

Source: Sand Atlas

Magnified Sand Image

Source: Sand Atlas

Kalmar Sweden

Source: Sand Atlas

This diversity leads to an amazing and beautiful array of imagery when viewed under the microscope. The kaleidoscope of colors, sizes, and shapes are truly works of natural art. Like that seen in the uniqueness of snowflakes under high magnification, magnified sands present us with a close-up view of a world that goes largely unseen to beach goers.

Magnified Sand Cocoa Pebbles

Source: Sand Atlas

Okinawa Japan

Source: Sand Atlas

Magnified Sand Rose Glass

Source: Sand Atlas

Some of the most vibrant and interesting examples of sand come from Dr. Gary Greenberg, who has set out through his work in microphotography to present sand’s natural diversity and to the world. Says Greenberg, “It is incredible to think when you are walking on the beach you are standing on these tiny treasures…every time I look through my microscope I am fascinated by the complexity and individuality created by a combination of nature and the repeated tumbling of the surf on a beach.”

To take his photos, Greenberg painstakingly traverses beaches, looking for the perfect sand specimens to translate to film. To ensure that the sand particles don’t lose any of their dimension in the close-up shots, Greenberg makes sure to take photos of each granule from multiple angles, which he then combines with photo editing software.

This artistic endeavor isn’t for the impatient, though: Greenberg, who received his PhD in biomedical research from University College London, has spent the past five years traipsing about the world’s beaches in pursuit of the perfect sands. The bulk of his work, not only in sands but other microphotography, can be seen at his website.

Magnified Sand Photos Maui Hawaii

Source: Sand Atlas

Bali Indonesia

Source: Sand Atlas

Sand Magnified From Highland Scotland

Source: Sand Atlas

Though highly regarded in the field, Dr. Greenberg is not the only person with a love of the natural beauty of sand, or the desire to share those images with the public. Sites like Sand Atlas are also great resources for finding a wide variety of magnified sand photography.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.