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Monday, 10 June 2013
Lighthouse In Various Light
Mood:  d'oh
Topic: Pix of Week

I have always liked lighthouses, as many people do.  They seem to conjure up so many stories of seafaring merchants, fisherman, and even battles - both of the human variety and with the forces of nature.   

So, when we had a break between our regular gatherings and duties, we decided to head for the coast and to photograph, among other things, a few lighthouses.  We stayed in York Beach, Maine, very near to the Nubble Light on Cape Neddick.  Not only was it nearby, but it was also one of the few nearby, that were readily accessible at least from one direction and visible from a couple of others.  It became a natural subject then for a personal project to capture one lighthouse under various lighting situations.  

They say that the best light is around sunrise and sunset because of the color and directionality.  So, unaccustomed as I am to the early morning hours, I did manage to rise before sunrise (5 am) on two mornings to see what I could see.  The first thing you realize is that that cool moment of unique sunrise-related light does not last very long on an eastern ocean shore.  The first morning I did not have time to go out to the lighthouse itself, so I shot it from across the cove.    

For the camera / photo enthusiasts, the shot specifics were:

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV

Lens:  Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM + 1.4x Teleextender at 250 mm 

Exposure: 1/200 at f/9, and ISO 200

Settings: Manual Mode, Partial Metering, no flash    

This was a great angle in some respects because we could not see the sun itself as it peeked over the eastern horizon.  All we could see was the glow in the sky and the "hot spots" on the lighthouse where it "kissed" it good morning.  For me, it was the hot kiss that made the image.  It happened and then it was gone in less than 5 minutes. 

We wondered what it would have been like to have been closer to the lighthouse?  We imagined we would see the tower bathed in a warm glow just as the sun peeked over the horizon.  It was this anticipation that motivated us to get up even earlier the next morning to drive the deserted streets and arrive at the lighthouse in time to capture this moment. 

Unfortunately, it was not nearly as interesting up close.  The warmth of the glow was not as intense and the only accessible angles and a featureless sky made it quite anti-climactic!  We did find a shot up along Cape Neddick where the warm glow playing on the textures of the rocks made for this view:   

The morning sun made the otherwise grey on grey rocks so much more interesting.  This was taken just after the sun cleared the horizon.  We slept in the remaining mornings of our trip.    

Next up for our lighting project was dusk / sunset. With the ocean to our east the sun is still up when it passes from our view, so sunset was pretty boring. As an envelope of darkness began to cover us, we became intrigued by the colorful vestiges of light playing on the water just before it disappeared altogether. At times there was a faint magenta glow looking southwest and a dark green in the waves looking northeast.  I loved the interplay of the brooding shadows, the spray of the waves and the white lighthouse in the distance.   

For the camera / photo enthusiasts, the shot specifics were:

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV

Lens: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L USM at 93 mm 

Exposure: 1/100 at f/4, and ISO 1600

Settings: Manual Mode, Partial Metering, no flash    

While the seas were relatively calm, there was just enough wave action from the incoming tide to give the shot a stormy character and remind us that the light's purpose is to keep you off the rocks.

Then we drove out Cape Neddick in late morning with the bright mid-day sun not quite overhead, but high in the sky.  Here is what Nubble Light looks like in the daylight. 

For the camera / photo enthusiasts, the shot specifics were:

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV

Lens: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L USM at 70 mm 

Exposure: 1/320 at f/16, and ISO 250

Settings: Manual Mode, Spot Metering, no flash

As you can see, it was close to "sunny 16" conditions, where on a sunny day, the rule of thumb is to set your shutter speed to 1 over the ISO of the recording medium. 

The lighthouse sits on a small island at the end of Cape Neddick, to which the public is not permitted access.  You can shoot only from the rocky out croppings of Sohier Park and this is one of the few angles where you can both stand on dry land and not get power lines in the photo.  

There were lots of people taking pictures that day.  In fact, some pamphlets called Nubble Light one of the most photographed lighthouses in Maine.  One elderly woman was complaining that she could not get a picture where the flag was not covering up the window - as you can see above, you do have to time it right and move around on the very uneven rocks.  I guess her attraction to the lighthouse was to see what was inside?

From this closeup you probably also notice something else strange about the light!  Yes, there is no light!  Now, you probably thought I just timed it wrong since it is supposed to be a blinking red light - and that is what I thought at first.  But then at the Old York Museums we got to talking to one of the volunteers (who just happened to have originally been from Colchester, Vermont) and he told us that the power feed to the island has a fault and needs to be replaced.  Hence, no light!  He told me that the Coast Guard put a solar powered light in, but it is only visible from sea side, not from the Cape side.  I guess you could call it, one if by sea and none if by land?     

For those of you who miss the light, here is an image I dug out of our archives.  It was taken way back in July of 2002 on a previous visit to this lighthouse.  At that time the light still worked!    

In the various tourist propaganda we saw that many brides every year will try to have some of their posed portraits taken at a lighthouse, and Nubble's relatively close access makes it popular.  On our last evening in Maine we decided to have dinner at Fox's Lobster House Restaurant on Cape Neddick with a great view of Nubble Light.  As we sat down, we noticed a limo pull into Sohier Park and drive up to the light.  We imagined, especially since it was Friday, that it contained a bridal party and watched expectantly to see what would happen.  There was a lot of uncertainty because it was pouring rain at the time - if she got out, it had the potential to become a "trash the dress" session.  Alas, the rain never stopped and the limo eventually drove away and we never got to see who was inside.

Lastly, I will leave you with our "postcard" shot of the Nubble Lighthouse.

Since we are inclined to add more images of lighthouses as time goes by we have begun a new scenic gallery of our lighthouse images.  If you would like to see these and other images in a higher resolution, check it out HERE.    

Here is hoping that your beacon never lacks the power to shine brightly in any weather.     

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont                 

Posted by ayerphoto at 2:28 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 13 June 2013 4:36 PM EDT
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