I’ll tell ya, who can resist the history, drama and romance that surrounds lighthouses?
As a photographer I for one, can not. The combination of unique structure, fabulous locations and history are just too compelling not to seek out and photograph these beautiful structures that protected our ships and shores for decades.
First off you will only find lighthouses in dramatic locations. Since their very purpose for being was to mark navigational passages and warn ships of dangers of offshore rocky ledges, shallow water or narrow harbors, the locations where these building stand are guaranteed to be some of the most dramatic landscapes or coastal scapes you can find. Island, rocky cliffs, eroding sand dunes – where ever the sea or great lake slams into the coastline with tremendous force, there you will find the protective beacons.
Ahh and in this often remote, secluded location where the lighthouse might be the only structure for miles lays the romance of the lonely lightkeeper toiling away in all sorts of inclimate weather keeping the light on. Or perhaps the family isolated away from society living out an existence on some of the most beautiful yet rugged conditions imaginable.
The need for active working lighthouses and the role of the lighthouse keeper has perhaps faded with the advancements of technology – first with the switch from whale oil to electricity and then with more advanced GPS, radar and navigational buoys, but part of our human yearning for simpler perhaps more exciting times when the dangers of the sea were more pressing and the flow of goods hanging on the thread of the next shipment, we need these reminders of the past. These romantic structures with their watchful beacons searching the night sky and blinking softly from the far off island lulling us into a calm slept, knowing that we are being watched over.
One of the best place I’ve seen for lighthouse visiting and photographing is Prince Edward Island off the East coast of Canada and above Nova Scotia Canada. A forty mile bridge now connects the island to the mainland but with the lighthouses that dot the island once can image all of the boat traffic that existed around the island in its history of human population.
Today PEI boasts some sixty three lighthouses. Some in private hands, some owned by the government and all in various states of repair or disrepair. The lighthouses represent a big tourism draw to say the least. A lighthouse map from the Prince Edward Island Lighthouse Society has 63 listed in total making it the highest concentration of lighthouses in any province or state in North America.
Lighthouses can be found just about anywhere there is navigable water. This one is on Lake Champlain at Crown Point, NY built after the revolutionary war when ship traffic increased on the lake.
Once peace was established and commerce grew on Lake Champlain, the need for a lighthouse at the point became evident. After surveying the lake, Naval Lieutenant C.T. Platt issued a report in 1838 recommending the establishment of lighthouses at Windmill Point, VT and Crown Point, NY. Steamboat masters had been keeping temporary lights on both these points for the previous eight years, but Platt felt these lights were insufficient especially in times of high winds and thick haze, when they were most needed. In 1853 Major William D. Fraser reiterated the need for a lighthouse at Crown Point, stating that those best acquainted with navigation on Lake Champlain felt a light to guide vessels through the narrow, one-half mile channel between Crown Point and Chimney Point was needed more than at any other point on the lake.