An Adventure in Lighthouse Photography
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My husband and I love spending time out at Lake Michigan near the Big Red Lighthouse, where I love taking amazing lighthouse photos. Dan has a small, 17′ Boston Whaler. It’s a cinch to trailer it over to our local boat launch and motor out through the channel at Holland State Park onto Lake Michigan. Our favorite stop is at what we call “Dog Beach” – a sandy area behind our lighthouse that is open to families with pets.
Sometimes You Just Have to Ask!
Holland State Park sits across the channel on the other side of the water. The Park is busy with sunbathers, families picnicking, and general beach mayhem. Fishers and walkers crowd a lengthy public pier hoping to catch sight of a spectacular sunset. Because Dog Beach is a bit of a walk from the land side, it is significantly less busy; However, we can pull right up to the shore from the waterside and jump off the boat to explore. The bonus is we can bring my little dog along!
We enjoy walking the almost-empty pier along the channel’s side and looking over at the busy pier that connects to the State Park. Sometimes we sit on the mounted bench in front of Big Red Lighthouse watching the boats sailing in and out through the channel.
If we want a tad more privacy, we sit in the sand on the beach itself and listen to the water lap at the shore near the lighthouse. All-in-all, it’s a pretty good thing we’ve got figured out with a semi-private beach area, friendly to dogs, and plenty of sand, water, and good views. Dan likes to fish so he wades in the water, trying to lure that one elusive Bass that won’t bite.
A Lighthouse just asks to be photographed!
Recently we packed a picnic dinner and loaded up the boat. We were ready to head over to Dog Beach for an evening’s lighthouse adventure. The air was sticky, and the bugs were out in full force. After anchoring the boat, we walked the pier, enjoyed the sand, had a bite to eat, and before long decided that the bugs were a bit more than I could take, so we loaded up to head back in for the night.
As we maneuvered through the channel back toward home, I spotted a familiar figure, a local photographer specializing in beautiful lighthouse, pier, and lakeshore shots that he captures at and just after sunset. I had a chance meetup with him once and have since followed him on Facebook to enjoy his fantastic imagery. Today he was clad in shorts and a photographer’s backpack, making his way on foot right back toward the space from where we had just come. “I know that guy!” I said to Dan. “We have to go back!”
I KNOW THAT GUY! We have to go back!!!
Dan wasn’t too sure I was making any sense and my enthusiasm for some strange man walking along and holding a camera bag may have slightly aroused his suspicions. Never-the-less, he patiently turned the boat around and brought me back to where we started, Dog Beach. Fortunately, I always carry my camera with me, so I was prepared! As we pulled up, Dan commented: “Now that’s commitment.” My friend stood in fishing waders hip-deep in the lake.
There he was pointing his camera back at Big Red with the sun about to set behind her. Jumping off the boat with great aplomb, I approached the near-stranger. “Hey! Are you Calvin?” (name changed to protect the innocent), to which he replied with an austere, “yes.” After I explained that I had been stalking him since we met, I asked if I could pick his brain, and with his permission, proceeded to do just that. We took photos of the lighthouse and the sunset side by side for at least a half-hour, me peppering him with questions, he patiently answering them all, sharing his knowledge, so I could learn.
"I am always prepared by keeping my camera with me!
At the end of the evening, I reflected on what I had learned.
1 – Don’t be afraid to get wet! I waded up to my bum in Lake Michigan to get this shot. I have never done that before. You will need to have a tripod to take a longer exposure. This tripod is awesome!!!
2 – Be patient. The best shots are not always the fastest shots. We stood side by side in the water for about 45 minutes, waiting for just the right light. And really – for just the right amount of darkness to get the perfect camera settings.
3 – The longer the shutter speed, the smoother the water. A Neutral Density filter will help you keep your shutter open longer. You can get a basic ND filter by clicking HERE. Be sure and choose the right size for your lens.
This is a great ND filter with variable settings. Just make sure you get the correct size for the lens you are using!
4 – Have fun!!! And having a spouse who is willing to have fun with you is helpful, too!
Finally – Don’t be afraid to ask questions and pick the brain of someone you admire. You will likely learn something new in the process!
P.S. If you’d like to see a list of all the lighthouses around lake Michigan so you can practice on one near you, click HERE!