03.21.21: Lighthouse scene

The Marblehead Lighthouse stands between the fenced-in keeper's house and Lake Erie in Marblehead, Ohio.

The Marblehead Lighthouse stands between the fenced-in keeper's house and Lake Erie in Marblehead, Ohio. 

Tech specs

  • Date/time: May 17, 2016 5:17 PM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM 
  • Focal length: 16mm
  • Aperture: f/10
  • Shutter: 1/320 second
  • ISO: 200

Finding a lighthouse on a birding trip

Each spring during the last few years we’ve visited parks in northwest Ohio, along Lake Erie, to photograph wildlife. It’s a busy time in those parks, with throngs of birdwatchers on hand to watch a variety of migrating warblers gathered to feed for a few days before flying across Lake Erie to their summer homes in Canada.

The warbler photos I’ve captured during those trips are some of my favorites, although dealing with the massive crowds of people can be a pain.

We allow time on our trips for non-bird-related sightseeing, hoping to add some less-crowded locations to our visit. One location we like to visit is Marblehead Lighthouse State Park, a very small park surrounding the historic Marblehead Lighthouse in Marblehead, Ohio, near Port Clinton. It’s a beautiful area with great views of Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay, and it’s a perfect site for photography.

The grounds provide numerous interesting angles to photograph the lighthouse: from the rocky shoreline of Lake Erie, behind the larger rocks on the Sandusky Bay (southwest) side of the lighthouse, from behind or beside the keeper’s house (where I stood for this photo) or the “postcard shot” from the sidewalk approaching the lighthouse with the sign in the foreground.

Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes. It was built in 1822 to guide ships to the entrance to Sandusky Bay. When built, the 50-foot lighthouse used whale oil lamps. Those lamps were replaced in 1858 by a single kerosene lantern magnified by a Fresnel lens to create a white, highly visible light.

Around 1900, the height of the lighthouse was increased to 65-feet tall to increase visibility and a mechanism was added to rotate the lantern at 10-second intervals. An electric light replaced the kerosene lantern in 1923, increasing the intensity of the lighthouse. In 2012. the U.S. Coast Guard (which operates and maintains the beacon) replaced the incandescent light with an LED light. The green signal flashes every six seconds and can be seen up to 13 miles away.

While the Coast Guard operates and maintains the beacon, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has maintained the property surrounding the lighthouse since 1972. It accepted ownership of the lighthouse in 1998, maintaining all but the beacon. The Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society operates a museum in the old keeper’s house and conduct tours of the lighthouse during summer months.

Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes. It was built in 1822 to guide ships to the entrance to Sandusky Bay.