It’s not easy being a lighthouse on America’s East Coast. None but enthusiasts seem to value them anymore.
Here on dangerous Cape Henlopen—home to hundreds of shipwrecks—one of its three lighthouses toppled into the sea nearly a century ago, and people still buy pictures of it. But did anyone bother to rebuild it? Naaaah.
The beacon featured here has the jawbreaker name of East End Breakwater Light, and this stalwart guardian was quite literally built like a tank.
Made entirely of cast iron to withstand the sternest storms, it has proudly towered above the Cape for over 120 years. Nobody lives inside anymore, because, as you can guess, the cast iron heated up like a Franklin stove in burning hot summers.
The Coast Guard, which cares for it, has painted the Lighthouse in a color that seems calculated to hide rust.
The clouds in the featured photograph tell a story about the weather here…
I shot it with a 10 stop neutral density filter at f18, to achieve a one minute exposure. And I created the long exposure to make the clouds stand out like a layer cake.
Each layer shows a different degree of motion-blur, because of a parallax effect:
The dark, threatening clouds on top are the nearest ones, and their motion-blur shows they are moving briskly. The second layer is further off, and so the clouds don’t appear to be moving so much and are therefore better-defined. Finally, the clouds at the bottom are quite far away, and so they are finely defined and don’t seem to be moving at all.
These layers of clouds also correspond to bands of weather that will be moving over the Cape, reflecting the urgent need for this light over the course of 120 years.
The photograph below, showing the opposite side of the Lighthouse, was shot conventionally, with no filter, at 400mm, f/14, 1/250…
The little white square below the beacon housing is a solar panel, which charges a battery to furnish light even when power from the mainland is cut.
Sitting on the centuries-old Breakwater, bloodied with rust but unbowed, resisting the fate of undersea siblings, this is my favorite Lighthouse of the Delmarva Shore.
Solider on, dear old friend to those in peril on the sea.