04.23.17: Marblehead Lighthouse

The Marblehead Lighthouse stands on the edge of Lake Erie in Marblehead, Ohio. 


Technical information

May 17, 2016,
4:44 p.m.

41°32’12” N,
82°42'43" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 (10mm) 


1/400th second


Each spring during the last few years I’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.

This past spring we decided to allow time on our trip for non-bird-related sightseeing, hoping to add some less-crowded locations to our visit. It turned out to be a great decision because it took us to 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 turned out to be a perfect site for photography.

It had rained all morning, but the skies began clearing as we drove to the lighthouse. When we arrived, the white clouds against the blue sky provided the perfect backdrop for lighthouse photographs.

The grounds provide numerous interesting angles to photograph the lighthouse: from the rocky shoreline of Lake Erie (where I stood to get this photo), behind the larger rocks on the Sandusky Bay (southwest) side of the lighthouse, from behind or beside the keeper’s house 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. 

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.