Sunrise at Ohio's Marblehead Lighthouse

Sunrise at Marblehead Lighthouse

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Earlier this week I drove from Upstate New York to Ohio, spending a couple of days relaxing before moving on to my next Bassmaster tournament on Lake St. Clair. While I did relax and rest up, I really wanted to photograph one of the Lake Erie lighthouses — and Marblehead Lighthouse was the perfect candidate!

I scouted out the old landmark lighthouse the afternoon before and instantly knew an early morning visit would provide an amazing image. The only thing I needed was a colorful sunrise. Marblehead Lighthouse was built in 1820 and remains a working beacon for mariners.

The 110-foot tower stands on a rocky ledge overlooking Lake Erie, so I took the time that afternoon to locate the perfect spot for my tripod. My goal was to show the lighthouse and the ledge surrounded by the waters of Lake Erie.

The hotel I booked for my stay in Ohio was an hour south of the lighthouse. That meant I would have to leave early. Not a huge deal for me, as my eyes usually pop open between 3:30 and 4 a.m. when I'm traveling.

I was on the road by 4:30 a.m. the next morning. I didn't see many clouds, but the winds were nil. I pushed on, wondering how things would turn out. Fortunately, I began seeing clouds on the northeastern horizon as I got closer to Marblehead.

Those clouds had pushed out into the lake by the time I arrived, and I had hopes of some really nice color. The rocky ledge was slick as ice, due to rains the evening before. So I careful picked my way into position. A bit of color began painting the edges of the distant clouds as I set up my tripod.

This is a big scene, with a tree to my right forcing me to stay relatively close to the lighthouse. That necessitated a wide-angle lens, so I pulled out my trusty Sigma 14mm Art and locked on my Benro polarizer. This lens not only allowed me to include the towering lighthouse but extended the view way out into the lake to the right to ensure the cloud bank would be part of the final image.

To solidify the composition, I positioned the camera so the edge of the rocks began in the bottom righthand corner and extended in a diagonal pointing toward sunrise. My Benro Master Glass polarizer was set to knock the glare off the water in the shade of the ledge nearest the camera, allowing the rocks below the lake's surface to appear in the foreground.

Lake Erie was quiet on this morning, with waters lapping at the rocks. Not a breath of wind blew, which was perfect for a long exposure. If waves had been crashing into the rocks, I probably would have gone with a faster shutter speed to show some of that motion; instead, I decided I wanted to create a glassy look to the lake

So I pulled out my 6-stop Benro neutral density filter to extend the shutter speed to 13 seconds. It wasn't the craziest of mornings, in terms of color. But the horizon glowed beautifully in the twilight, creating a wonderful gradient in the sky and casting golden light across the placid waters of Lake Erie

 I absolutely love the soft feel of this print, which I titled "Twilight at Marblehead Lighthouse."

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Not done yet: Sunrise Over Lake Erie

Sunrise Over Lake Erie

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I didn't think there would be any real sunrise on this morning because of the thick cloud bank on the horizon, so I packed up my gear and was picking my way off the rocky ledge as official sunrise began.

My suspicions were confirmed — but I noted a break in the clouds just above the horizon that I was certain would allow the sun to peak through.

So I started looking for another composition that would show off the beautiful rocks. And right on the point of the peninsula on which Marblehead Lighthouse stands was the perfect composition.

There was a huge triangular rock that pointed toward the rising sun. Behind that rock was a calm pool of water bordered on the right by yet another triangular rock. Pools of water on top of the ledge sealed the deal.

I quickly set up with a low angle, using my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens to frame the scene. A polarizer again was used to break the glare on the placid pool in the foreground.

This time, however, I wanted to create an image showing the action of the lapping waves. A shutter speed of 1/10 of a second was perfect.

I just waited for the sun to reach the break in the clouds, snapped the shutter and "Sunrise Over Lake Erie" was created.

It was the perfect morning to be out and about!