May 2, 2010

On Lighthouses

So you're in New England a Mid-Atlantic State, like Delaware, for instance, and you think to yourself, "Gee, I have some time and a camera; what should I should I make a picture of?" Something that kind of represents the area, something that says you were in a Mid-Atlantic State, right? Huh, atlantic...that's an ocean...something ocean-y, perhaps... boats?... crabs?... salty sailors? ...oooh, maybe there's a lighthouse nearby!

You turn to your trusted resource on the web for lighthouses and find that there are indeed some lighthouses nearby. This is important, because now you can go to the camera store and ask whether you should go to the New Castle lighthouse, or if it's worth the drive to the Henlopen area. This way, the guys at the shop know you've done your homework, and are worth spending some time with on directions (you just nod and repeat a turn now and then, though, because you have a GPS in the car).

And you're off. Driving past some really terrific cemeteries that will probably look great at sunset, and past this incredible farmhouse that is going to have unbelievable light in an hour, and you continue past another amazing cemetery with a classic church house in the yard because you have a Plan for a lighthouse--a Mid-Atlantic State Lighthouse--at sunset; the kind of picture that will make your wife weep with joy that she allowed you to get all that ridiculously expensive camera equipment. Stick to the Plan.

Finally, Henlopen begins to be mispronounced by your GPS voice, and you pull up to the beach. Having double checked your settings, you open the door which is promptly slammed shut against your foot by the 82mph wind gusts. Hmm; those cemeteries are looking better and better, and you might just make it before sunset...Stick to the Plan!

You've got a choice here of two lighthouses, one on either side of a small peninsula. Choices are good, because one is always bette than the other, and you immediately spot the lighthouse you want; of course, it's the one that's much farther away. Good thing you planned to arrive at least an hour before sunset because it's a long walk out there.

And about half way you come across a fence, or the un-buried  portion of a fence. Evidently, the wind is commonly this strong around here. The sign on the fence, which runs all the way down the beach and into the water, informs you that there are endangered birds nesting on the peninsula: no entrance by order of the FIsh and Game department. As all fishermen, know, rangers are never around until the one time you break the rule.

So, you slog through the sand back to the parking lot to try the other lighthouse. When you reach the parking lot, you find that your smooth leather shoes have been sandblasted into suede. Fortunately, it looks like you can get a nice angle from the other side of the peninsula. 

So, you make your barefooted way down to the other beach until you find that those endangered birds are greedy little things requiring the entire peninsula to themselves. With this end of the fence behind you, the pier down the beach is looking like a good vantage for lighthouse pictures, and you can probably just make it by sundown.

Beaches are deceptive about how long they are. Almost to the pier, the sun is setting, so you set up your tripod and use a long lens to bring that lighthouse a bit closer. However, every frame is looking a little fuzzy. After the third time cleaning your lens you realize that despite the tripod the wind is continuously rattling your camera around, causing the fuzziness. 

The sun is set. You've got no lighthouse pictures, no cemetery pictures, and numb, sandblasted toes. Might as well make the best of it. Turn around and see if there's anything else to shoot. 

So far, the Plan has never failed me. Besides, you can always shoot lighthouses in Utah.

Nikon D90, 50mm lens, f/16, 20.0s, ISO 100.

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