Category: "Lighthouse Photography"
Here's an image that still speaks to me - the full moon setting over the South Haven, Michigan, lighthouse:
I made this image back in 2002 and of course on film. Got up early to get to the beach on time, and set up the camera and tripod on an ice dune along the shore, south of the lighthouse. It was -12F (-24C) - i.e. damn cold! - and a steady breeze blew off the lake. I loaded Kodak E100S (if I recall correctly) into my trusty Pentax Pz-1p and shot 3 rolls of film before the cold overwhelmed me. Back at my car I dropped my keys, and actually had a hard time picking them up and getting my fingers to work them into the door.
Another photographer showed up shortly after I arrived. Like me, he had watched the moon rise/set times on an online almanac and picked a time close to dawn when the conditions would be right for this kind of shot. (You need to shoot the moon in twilight if you want to balance the lighting between the moon, and the earth here below.) He had driven up from Indiana, considerably farther than my short trip. I don't remember his name, but we grabbed some hot coffee and breakfast at a nearby fast food joint.
The ultimate irony: the extreme temperatures were just too much for the Sigma EX 70-200 f2.8 lens I was using. When the lens chilled down the aperture opened up and would not close. In fairness to Sigma the temperatures were far below the stated operating range for the lens. So, when I picked up my film from the lab I was horrified to see that all of the frames were just blank - all but the first 3. So, here is one of three...
Lighthouses are not a subject matter that I seek out much these days, but I enjoyed photographing them in the past. I came back to this image as part of a project to rebuild my archive galleries on this website -which you can find here:
Another photo from Maryland - this is a replica of a Bay Lighthouse that is at the Marina in Cambridge, MD. This would have been a screw-pile lighthouse, built upon piles that were literally screwed into the soft bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. Unlike this one, they would have been out in the water, typically accessible only by boat. Click on the image for a larger file.
Infrared converted Pentax K10D with DA 17-70 f4 lens.
I had a little time today and a weather front was moving in, so I popped over to the beach at South Haven to see if the high winds would be making some nice wave splashes on the lighthouse there. Waves were indeed crashing and I got a few good shots. I am still experimenting with Ricoh’s Pentax K-3, and it still impresses me. These shots were taken with the K-3, my old Sigma EX 70-200 f2.8 (the non-DG and non-macro version). Hand held in high winds at ISO 800.
The wind was driving clouds in from the west, but there were a few breaks in the cloud cover. As a result the light was highly variable - sometimes the light was in full sunlight, which made the background appear exceptionally dark, other times there was only gloomy overcast everywhere.
Click on the images for larger files.
Here’s one where the sun broke out - more or less just on the lighthouse:
The waves were coming in from the NNW and they didn’t wrap around the lighthouse as much as the would have if they had be coming more due west. But I managed to get a few shots of the lighthouse wrapped in the mist of a breaking wave. Here’s one:
And while I’m enamored by Ricoh’s Pentax K-3 and the great capabilities it offers - these shots reminded me of an old shot from a decade ago, taken with a Pentax Mz-S (a camera I still use), A* 400mm f2.8 and Kodak E-100S film.
Here are a few snaps from an October trip to the South Haven Beach. It was mid October, two weeks after the B&W shots a couple of posts down, but a similar wind storm was raking the beach. This time I took the Pentax K-5.
Here’s the light at South Haven, along with some sea gulls. When the gulls saw me taking a picture they all turned to see what I was photographing - silly birds. (Click on the picture for a larger image.)
Some nice high seas:
But the rough water didn’t keep a handful of brave souls from venturing out into the surf:
There’s a flock of geese stringing along in the air just over the horizon on the left edge of the frame…
This guy managed to catch air a few times:
A few fun hours at the beach. The K5 acquitted itself remarkably well - though I’ve had it for a few months now I really haven’t used it much. The high ISO performance is remarkable - all but the first show here were taken at ISO 1600, the first one at ISO 800. (Of course, I worked a bunch of digital voodoo on all of these.) For lenses I used a Sigma EX 70-200 f 2.8 for the first and third shot, and a Sigma 135-400 f4.5 - 5.6 for the rest. I’ll be adding that to my review post sooner or later.
Last week I spent a day wandering along the Lake Michigan shore. It was windy and I stopped in South Haven and took a few snapshots of the South Haven lighthouse in the gale. I didn’t bring a digital camera, so I shot with the Pentax 6x7 - just two rolls - and then several rolls of 35mm B&W film in the Mz-S. I wanted a grainy look, and I needed fast shutter speeds, so I pushed Fuji Neopan two stops to ISO 1600.
Haven’t developed the 120 film yet, but here’s one of the better 35mm shots. The Neopan was developed in HC-110, Dilution B, 12 minutes for the 2 stop push. The grain came out real nice - smooth and not clumpy - it was a good combo.
Click on the image for a larger picture.
World pinhole day would have been last Sunday, April 24, but since that was Easter the folks how run the contest extended the time period by several days. (More about world pinhole day at http://www.pinholeday.org/)
Here’s my entry:
Of course, that is the South Haven lighthouse on the Lake Michigan Shore.
This was taken with my trusty Pentax 6x7 medium format camera with a pinhole body cap. The film used was some very old (and very expired) Kodak E100V transparency (slide) film.
I’m always trying to learn new things, so here are a few things I learned with this project:
1. The pinhole body cap does not form an entirely light proof seal against the camera body. In this shot you can see a mild light leak in the arching light areas to the left of the lighthouse. In some shots the light leaks totally whiles out the exposure. OK - I’m sure I was careless in how I mounted the body cap in a few cases, but I’m not sure if the body cap mounted on the camera is lightproof. (And then I wonder… why *should* a body cap be light proof, eh?)
I’ll be testing that…
2. The Kodak E100V had expired in 2004, but here we are, 7 years later, and it performed fine. It was stored in a deep freeze so that probably helped. I’ll be less worried about expired film going forward (good news since I have a freezer full of expired film…)
And BTW - I wouldn’t recommend slide film for any pinhole work, unless you can really get your exposure precise. I just really wanted to get rid of this film after looking at it in the freezer for the past 8 years, so I crossed my fingers and bracketed…
A couple more tourist snapshots from my U.P. vacation, several weeks distant now…
Here’s the East Channel Light, a lighthouse located on the east side of Grand Isle, a large island off Munising, Michigan. Obviously, this light is no longer in service. When you take the boat tour of the pictured rocks the tour boat schleps you around the rocks for a few hours and on the way back they pull up to this lighthouse and turn the boat both ways, so you can get nice photos. Everyone on the boat got essentially the same shot – it’s a fun tour and highly recommended.
Here’s the little light station located just outside of the cabin we rented on Grand Marais Harbor. This was snapped on the first night we were there – a cold, damp, and foggy evening. The light is in service – I didn’t even think of getting a shot of it as it lit up at twilight, not till just now. Well, something for the next trip.
I have a few snapshots of the Pictured Rocks for a future post, and that will be it for the U.P. for now.
Yesterday I headed off to the Allegan Forest for the first time in several weeks. I had visited the forest in early winter, and again during some the coldest days of late January. But yesterday was the first really warm day we’ve had for some time, so I was eager to head out and see how the forest looked.
Allegan is closer to the lake than Kalamazoo, and so it gets a lot more snow. Lake effect snow. And as I headed down the main dirt roads, time and time again I saw some of my favorite two track roads, all too buried in snow to be passable. At least in my Subaru.
Finally I made my way to 121st street – definitely not a two track, and definitely a well traveled road. But still a seasonal road, not plowed or cleared of snow in the winter.
There were a lot of vehicle tracks leading down 121st street, and so I decided to head in. After a couple dozen yards I realized that the slushy melting snow under the wheels was not working. I decided to back out – and carefully started to back up towards the main road.
It only took a second to slide off the packed down tire tracks and slip into the deep, slushy snow. The car stopped, the wheels spun, and for all my rocking forward and back, I was stuck for good.
So there I was. I called home, my wife looked up a wrecker service in Allegan on the internet, I called them and waited for the truck to come. In the pre-cellphone days I would of had to walk the mile or so to the ranger station (whcih is often empty) or flagged down a passing motorist (who are rather scarce out in the woods.)
I had set aside the day to try to scrounge out some photos – so, while I was waiting I figured I may as well take a few shots.
Stuck in the woods under blue skies with the sun shining through the trees. The obvious landscapes shots were wanting. I started to think about Harry Callahan and his shots of grass stalks in the snow. Instead of grass stalks in the snow, I was captivated with the shadows of small saplings and tree branches – really twigs – on the snow. And so I spent half and hour shooting shadows in the snow. I probably wouldn’t of done it if I hadn’t gotten stuck there, but I’m glad I did. No masterpieces, no compelling photos – but an interesting exercise, maybe something worth pursuing in the future.
When the wrecker came we tried digging the car out of the snow with shovels. I don't think the truck operator wanted to venture too far back on the side road. qq It didn’t work. The slushy snow was compacted into ice half a foot down – and it was on that ice that I was just spinning my wheels.
So we hooked my car up to the truck with a long rope and with one small tug it wound up back on the packed down snow – the path I was originally trying to follow. A minute or two in reverse and I was back on the plowed road, $75 poorer but better for the time spent among the shadows.
From there I decided to head to safer ground, so I drove over to South Haven the check out the lighthouse. A few weeks ago I had been there in a howling snow squall, but today all was calm. It was also uncannily warm, as I walked out onto the pier in shirt sleeves, the ice on the pier melted or melting.
The lighthouse was still fringed with icicles – but with predicted highs up around 60 F in the next few days, these won’t last.
As usual, a steady stream of photographers was snapping away at the lighthouse. I always enjoy my visits to the lake - but lihthouses are sort of a subject matter of last resort. I probably would have done better to have stuck with the shadows and snow, whether stuck in the snow or not. Here it is, mid March, and the winter is fading fast. I once shot a honey bee in a crocus bloom on the 19th of March. This year the news is that the honey bees have suffered a drastic die-off over the winter, so maybe no bees this year. But something will come along. A lot of snow has to melt – but things should be picking up in the weeks ahead.
Winter arrived with a vengeance at the end of January, and the unusually mild weather was swept away in a white blur of blowing snow. Unfortunately, the snow has not been suitable for snowflake photography – it has come down as a fine powder, broken up with no distinct crystal structures of any kind.
But it has snowed. In fact, it has snowed a lot. Last weekend as the cold front rolled in the lake effect engine turned on. A few feet of snow have fallen on Kalamazoo, much more has fallen along the lake-shore.
So, instead of photographing snow crystals I decided to go for landscapes showing the whiteout conditions – snowcapes, if you will.
The snow first arrived late in the day on Saturday, January 27. I taught a winter photography workshop at the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute that day. We already had a few inches of snow on the ground, but the serious cold front was just starting to move in, and the heavy white out snow conditions just got started that day. While driving home after the class, I stopped at Walled Lake to snap a few shots of the whiteout conditions using the Pentax K10D.
Heavy snow was the rule for the ensuing week, and on Friday I headed out to the Allegan Forest, just to keep in touch with some of my favorite places.
Allegan is much closer to the lake than Kalamazoo, and the forest was covered with several feet of snow. The snow was too deep for me to venture down any of the two-tracks in my Subaru, so I pulled over onto the shoulder in a few places and hiked back into the woods in the deep snow.
I visited a field that is one of my staples in the summer – north of the Kalamazoo river, it’s a great place for butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects. The winter shot certainly contrasts with the hot, hazy photo I took of the same scene last summer.
Yesterday (Feb 9, 2007) I decided to head out to South haven to see what the lighthouse looked like in the snow.
I have to admit – I've cooled to lighthouse photography. I make only a few trips a year out to the lakeshore, where in the past I regularly went hit the nearby lighthouses, from St. Joseph up to Grand Haven.
Early in the week, the temperatures were downright frigid – with a –10 Fahrenheit (that’s -23 Celsius for everyone outside of the US). By Friday the temperatures have moderated, to a relatively balmy 18 (-8 C). I went to the lighthouse mostly because I couldn't think of a better place to go.
It wasn't snowing in Kalamazoo, but as I got to the lake shore (30 miles away) the snow was heavy. I walked out onto the pier to get close to the lighthouse – walking on glare ice covered with 5 inches of light and fluffy snow. The water just at the point of freezing up solidly, lots of broken slabs of ice with little spaces of open water between them.
The shot of the South Haven Lighthouse works well enough – I would have preferred to be a yard or two to the right of where I shot it, but that would have put me right at the edge of the pier, and too close to the water for comfort.
Tonight is clear, with temps already back into the single digits. Maybe we’ll get some snow yet that will be good for snow flake photos. But, if not, maybe there will be a few more chances for snowscapes.