Saturday, I embarked on a three hour voyage to learn about and photograph the historic lighthouses of  New York Harbor. The tour was sponsored by the National Lighthouse Museum and the Working Harbor Committee.

At 9:45am we boarded the high speed ferry Sea Streak at pier 5.  Now, this ferry is just fabulous for getting people to and from New York and New Jersey in record time but, as a sight seeing boat, not a good idea.  Because this boat went at such high speeds it was very bumpy, kicked up gale force winds and enough salt water spray to think you were at Niagara Falls.  I spent a good deal of time trying to keep my balance, wiping off the lens and sticking my camera under my jacket to protect it from the elements as best I could.  The boat did slow down and idle in front of the lighthouses so we could get a good look and take a few images. But, I knew right away my shots were not going be great due to the spray and that I could barely keep my balance.  I just kept on shooting as did the other photographers who were in the same boat as I was (pardon the pun.)

When viewing the images on the computer the salt coating on the lens gave the same look as the old 1940’s movies where they smeared Vaseline on the lens to create that soft glowing blur. I used all of my artistic digital darkroom talents to turn these photographic lemons into lemonade. I converted all of them to black and white, applied a sepia finish which sharpened some of the blur and pulled out any detail. The “salt” blur actually worked well on a some of the images but most of the shots were deleted because the blur was too much and you could barely make out the subject of the image. The last four images are an exception to this.  I kept them because the blur had a very dream like in quality to it. The images I took of the pier before we embarked on our harbor tour obviously did not experience blur problems but I converted them to sepia just the same because I felt it gave a nice aged look to the wooden planks, beams and poles.

Despite all of the  above, I did enjoyed myself and captured images of  the following lighthouses listed in order of appearance: Fortwadsworth (SI); Coney Island (Brooklyn, NY); West Bank (SI);  Romer Shoal (NJ); Navesink Twin Lights (NJ); Great Beds (NJ) and last but not least Old Orchard Shoal (NY).

Each lighthouse has a unique history and for me the two most interesting light houses were the Fort Wadsworth, sitting on top of the old Fort Wadsworth Battery Weed under the Verrazano Bridge and, The 150 year old Navesink Twin Light houses with their medieval castle architecture.  One of my favorite lighthouse shots though, is of Old Orchard with a man in a small boat fishing at the foot of the Light house while a flock of  socializing Cormorants napped, groomed feathers and chattered on the top of the light house. A very picturesque moment.

Although these lighthouses are no longer in use, due to modern GPS technology, they still stand as historic monuments and museums. Reminders of the importance of the maritime industries that serve the ports of New York, New Jersey and Staten Island.


2 thoughts on “Making Lemonade out of Lemons

  1. Nice work – shame the fast boat and salt spray messed with your photos (though they did come out great). Hope your camera wasn’t damaged by the salt.

    I didn’t even know the harbor had all those light houses – thanks for sharing.


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