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Lighthouse Photography Tips

Lighthouse Photography Tips - Four quick tips to help you improve your images of lighthouses.

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Category : Landscape and Travel
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Studying Stones
Photo by AmandaBroughton.


Gear:

  • DSLR
  • Longer zoom lens - Pull in detail when you can't get close
  • Wide-angle lens – Include more of the foreground and put the lighthouse within its environment
  • Tripod. If there are paths or even a bridge that leads to the lighthouse you can make it appear longer with a wide-angle lens.
  • Polariser – cut down on glare and enhance colours, particularly blue skies

Technique:


Research

With a little research online and a quick look at what other people are photographing will soon give you the pointers you need to find a photogenic lighthouse. GPS coordinates, access and visitor information can all be found with a few quick searches. Have a look to see if anyone's recommended shooting spots from slightly further up the coast too as there's less likely to be lots of tourists there. If you do want to shoot close to the lighthouse and it's one that's particularly popular with tourists try arriving early in the morning to avoid crowds of people getting in your shots.


Background

The background for a lighthouse will usually be the sky and the sea so having an interesting sky is often a must. Some lighthouses will look good photographed at any time of day but the majority of them will look better in the glow of morning light or in an evening, sat against a sky full of sunset shades. Low light and brewding storms skies shouldn't be overlooked either, particular if you can capture the waves crashing against the lighthouse or rocks near by.


Contrast

Whoever decorates lighthouses really likes to use white paint which can make them tricky subjects to shoot when it's sunny. A plain, white sky causes similar problems so you're best leaving your camera in its bag until you get some cloud cover. If you want to shoot some lighthouse silhouettes you can, of course, create them at any time of day but they often look better when the sun's starting to go down as the sky will be a little warmer and you'll still be able to capture the landscape that surrounds the landscape too.


The lamp

We have plenty of working lighthouses in the UK which means you'll be able to get a shot or two when the light gets switched on. Your first thoughts may be to shoot after the sun has gone down but actually you're better off working at dawn or dusk where there's still some light in the sky.

To freeze the movement of the light you'll need a quick-ish shutter speed but by putting your camera on a tripod and slowing your speeds down you'll be able to capture a full rotation of the lamp. Slow shutter speeds are also great for when there's sea fog around as the fog will reflect the light coming from the lighthouse and the slower speeds will help create a larger area that's 'glowing' around the lighthouse.

Do remember the lamp will be considerably brighter than the whole scene and you can end up with a light that's overexposed if you don't meter correctly. Bracketing will mean you can take one shot exposing for the whole scene then a second just for the light and combine them together when you're back in front of your computer. Make sure you have your tripod if you're going to use this technique though as you need to leave the camera in the exact same position for both shots otherwise they won't line up when you try and combine them. To further increase your chances of success use a remote release so you don't have to touch the camera to set the exposure going and once you have a focus point, switch to manual so the focus isn't changed accidentally.

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