Seven Beautiful Portraits of Big Red Lighthouse That Will Inspire You

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Seven Beautiful Portraits of Big Red Lighthouse That Will Inspire You

Holland, Michigan.  The place that I call home is also the home to Big Red.  This beautiful small town in West Michigan lies nestled along the shore of Lake Michigan.  Because we live within just a few minutes of Holland State Park, I naturally get plenty of opportunities to head to the beach.


The highlight of our lovely beach is the Holland Harbor Lighthouse, commonly referred to in these parts as “Big Red”.  Folks come from far and wide to get a peek at Big Red.  The sign placed across the channel from her gives a brief history.  You can read a more thorough history HERE.  If you park in the designated area at the State Park and walk down the path toward the pier, Big Red sits majestically to your left.  Photography tip:  Place focus on your subject in front.  Use a large aperture (smaller #) to allow the background to appear a bit softer in focus.

Pic of Placard with Big Red behind
The sign reads:
The first lighthouse built at this location was a small, square wooden structure erected in 1872.  In 180 the lighthouse service installed a new light atop a metal pole in a protective cage.  The oil lantern was lowered by pulleys for service.  At the turn of the century, a steel tower was built for the light, and in 1907 the present structure was erected.  Named the Holland Harbor South Pierhead Lighthouse, it has a gabled roof that reflects the Dutch influence in the area.  The lighthouse, popularly referred to as “Big Red,” was automated in 1932.  When the U.S. Coast Guard recommended that it be abandoned in 1970, citizens circulated petitions to rescue it.  The Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission was then organized to preserve and restore the landmark.


On Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the summer, you can access the lighthouse from the south side of the channel.  You might want to bring your walking shoes if you opt to do this.  Although it’s not a short walk, it is a pretty walk that takes you through some lovely cottage homes and alongside the DeVos mansion that sits behind the red beauty.   

Silhouette of Big Red with Sunburst

When the sun is getting low in the evening sky, you can enjoy watching it set from a bench mounted on the platform right on the front side of the walkway.  If you pay close attention and know the right settings, you can get a great sunflare like this one! Here I am approaching the back of Big Red right alongside the channel.  Photography tip:  Get low with your camera for a whole new perspective.


The clouds over the big lake are gorgeous.  If you are lucky, the sky will put on a show for you while you visit Big Red.  On this evening, the sun dipped behind that cloud formation and hid away so that we couldn’t watch him set along the horizon.


One thing is for certain.  You can go to the beach and watch the sun every evening and you will never get the same show twice!  Photography tip:  Use a super wide lens to capture a horizon shot.  The width will give interest to your skyline.  You can read more about wide and long lenses in Ten Need to Know Photography Terms for the Beginner.


As you may have guessed, we spend a good deal of time on the south side of the channel enjoying the view of our lighthouse up close.  


Our favorite time to go is in the late evening, also referred to as “golden hour” by photographers everywhere.  The light is deliciously warm and soft and makes great silhouettes.  Photography tip:  Use forced perspective to make small items appear larger than the very largest items.  Here the grass stands taller than the lighthouse.  Hint:  Whatever is closest to the camera will appear larger.

Pink background with "Hip Grandma Merch" available on front


My son and my husband often accompany me on my treks out to Big Red.  My little dog, Reba, LOVES to run to the end of the pier.  She especially loves chasing the seagulls as they rest on the cement pier.  She is a little thing that could easily be swooshed off the side of the pier by a gust of wind, a big wave, or another passerby, so she wears her pink life jacket proudly just in case of an emergency.

Pic of little dog near Big Red

Reba is terrified of the water, and whines terribly until we are off the boat and away from the water.  You can see she get over it pretty quickly for her trip down the pier.  Photography tip:  Use a fast shutter speed, 800 or faster, to freeze action.


Our trips always include a walk out onto the South Pier.  I love looking back at Big Red as she is lit by the evening sun.  Nothing feels more patriotic than a giant red lighthouse with a white and blue sky as her backdrop.

Big Red with blue sky with clouds

Big Red always proudly flies the red, white and blue high above.  Because she is right along the edge of the harbor, the flag flutters prettily in the breeze.  Photography tip:  Always be aware of what is in the background of your photo.  The background can make or break a beautiful shot.


If you are feeling energetic, you can trek up the 260 step to the top of Mt. Pisgah to get this dazzling view of Big Red.  For more information about Mt. Pisgah and a map, click HERE.  It’s not far from the beach and makes a great workout.  Trust me when I tell you the 360 degree view from the top is worth the workout.  Also, there are plenty of rest stops as you make your way up.

Big Red from Mt. Pisgah

Big Red is always beautiful set against the Lake, but something about a sunset makes her silhouette even more compelling.  Photography tip:  When shooting a silhouette, always expose for the background, which will put your foreground naturally in shadow.

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2 thoughts on “Seven Beautiful Portraits of Big Red Lighthouse That Will Inspire You”

  1. I love lighthouses.I live by Lake Huron I’ve seen and been up them are Sturgeon Point lighthouse also Presque Isle lighthouse beautiful have seen 40 Mile point lighthouse also Whitefish Bay. Thank You for your photo’s my daughter took two picture’s of Sturgeon pt. and Presque Isle have them on canvas also framed. My daughter know’s what I like. Thank you Muriel Matthews

    • Thank you so much, Muriel! It’s on my bucket list to go around Michigan and check out all of the lighthouses! That would be a big trip, but so much fun! Would love to see them all!


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