The UK's coastline has many lighthouses which are worth a visit with your camera. Some are open to the public and are definitely worth exploring, but here we discuss using lighthouses within the wider landscape.
Take your camera and all your usual lenses and you will not go far wrong. You may find a camera with a smaller body more useful as they can be often fit in jacket pockets or if you prefer to carry your gear in a bag, it'll take up less room leaving space for a flask of tea and your packed lunch! Micro Four Thirds cameras, such as the Olympus OM-D E-M5
, have compact, lightweight bodies but still offer the flexibility of using inter-changeable lenses and quality images. The OM-D is also splash- and dustproof so it's rather at home on the beach! If you do own a camera that is dust-, water- or splashproof you still should wipe down your equipment after a day of photography at the coast to remove any salt residue present.
A tripod is needed if you intend getting there early or staying in late. Other than that, it is perfectly fine to shoot handheld. Filters are also definitely worth packing, especially the polariser that can be used to cut-down glare to enrich colours and saturate blue skies.
If you're looking for lighthouses have a look at the Trinity House
website for more information and locations close to you. Have a look at where other photographers have visited too, plus a quick online search will find you visitor information as well as GPS coordinates and directions quickly.
Take A Walk
Use your feet! Walking around your subject is always advised and is especially effective with using lighthouses. That way you can put your subject into context of the beach or town that the lighthouse is situated.
Wide Or Telephoto?
In terms of lenses, wide-angle and telephotos are equally valid. Wides let you use more of the foreground while telephotos let you pull in detail and are also excellent at putting the lighthouse within its environmental context.
Time Of Day
Many lighthouses are still in use so a good time to shoot them is at dawn or at dusk when there is colour in the sky and the lighthouse's lamp is on. 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.
At this time of day there's not much light around so you will need the tripod and a remote release. If you set a sufficiently slow enough shutter speed you will get a complete rotation of the lamp.
Low light and storms skies shouldn't be overlooked either, particular if you can capture the waves crashing against the lighthouse or rocks near by.
Lighthouses look photogenic in most lighting situations, but bright sun can be tricky because of high contrast problems – white is a popular lighthouse colour. Bland white skies are also an issue for the same reason. Other than that, get shooting.