Lighthouses are Cool!

Lighthouses are cool! Admit it. Every time you see a lighthouse, you’re drawn to it. Whether you want to climb to the top to see the view or find out if anybody’s up there, or to learn its history and hear its stories, or just to photograph it, you can’t help yourself. There’s something magical about a lighthouse.

For photographers, often the most interesting opportunities lie at transitions between one type of landscape and another, and the meeting of land and sea is classic. And it doesn’t hurt that lighthouses, by design, are not only always located on this boundary, but often are in the most dramatic locations in the world. After all, they exist to mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs and other hazards for ships at sea, and for striking imagery, the more dangerous the coastline, the better.

So when I was preparing for my trip to Iceland by reading travel guides and studying maps, I was excited to see that lighthouses were all over the coast of Iceland, and they were clearly marked on my map. And when I started looking at photos of various ones, I noticed that they varied greatly in design. Except for a couple of twins on the west coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, I didn’t see any two that were alike. So I knew that I needed to make time to find as many lighthouses as I could on this trip!

Well, as usual, there are challenges. Iceland, depending on whom you ask, has between 5,000 and 8,000 km. of coastline and many, many fjords with land jutting out into the sea. These lighthouses, of course, are situated as far out as possible on all of these “fingers” and other extremities, and so getting to them was going to require some effort. Not only was I going to have to travel repeatedly to the outer edges of Iceland, I was going to have to drive on “roads” that, even for Iceland, were horrible. And in some cases there just wasn’t going to be a road at all.

Orange Sentinel, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Lighthouse on the western tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, in West Iceland.

So I did what I could to locate the ones I thought were the most interesting, given time and travel constraints. My favorites were the “twins” on the far west tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and I knew I just had to get there. These super-bright orange beauties, which a friend compared to LEGO® pieces, guard the west and northwest edges of the peninsula near the town of Hellissandur (meaning sand cave, I think). I had already decided to visit a beautiful golden beach near here, so it was just a matter of continuing on the “road” to the west coast. This is one of those roads where if you go slowly enough to not blow out a tire or destroy your suspension, the speedometer doesn’t actually register. Meanwhile, the sun was setting rapidly, so as you might imagine I was a bit stressed out trying to get to one of the lighthouses in time. Well, I got there in just time to grab my camera, run to the edge of the cliff, throw down my tripod on a rock and fire off, you guessed it, one shot before the sun disappeared behind a cloud. Sounds very Ansel Adamsy, doesn’t it? OK, I’m being overly dramatic – I just wanted an excuse to reference one of my favorite Ansel Adams anecdotes. Go ahead and read it – I’ll wait.

The rest of the ones I visited were closer to the main road, so not as difficult to reach. The one that looks like a rocket was built in 1946 to replace the original one built in 1917.

LIghthouse at Malarrif, West Iceland

The white stone tower Malarrif Lighthouse, built in 1946, resembles a spaceship, on the southwest tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland.

The oddest one I found looked like a lantern stuck up on a pole – not very attractive but I suppose it was just meant to mark the entrance to a marina, so it didn’t have to be very tall.

Lighthouse at Rif, Iceland

A tiny lighthouse sits atop a pole next to a breakwater, at Rif, Iceland.

And there was the one marking the entrance to a fjord across from Patreksfjörður, the town where I stayed while in the Westfjords.

LIghthouse in the Westfjords, Iceland

A small, simple lighthouse in the Westfjords sits across the fjord from Patreksfjörður, in West Iceland.

So, that’s all the lighthouses I saw. Doesn’t seem like that many, does it? That’s the problem with places like Iceland – there’s so much to photograph, you’re always having to prioritize, and there’s never enough time. Well, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’ll just have to go back!

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3 Responses to “Lighthouses are Cool!”

  1. Sheri Johnson says:

    I LOVE lighthouses and have collected and photographed them for years. I agree with you, they do have an attraction to them.
    I learned of your site from my friend, Laurie Hatlem, whom she says you have met. Thank you for the wonderful photographs!

  2. Sue-Z says:

    Interesting landscapes. Looks like the Iceland trip was a success after all! I am particularly drawn to the West Iceland image.