What is it about lighthouses that is so appealing?! As many of you know, I’ve been dreaming about seeing one in particular, the Portland Head Lighthouse, and have even written about it here. But even before I painted a lighthouse, they were intriguing. They are a beautiful shape that shoots up into the sky spilling light into the dark void. Lighthouses help the wandering, confused and hurt. Lightkeepers led a solitary and often dangerous life willing to forsake their own safety to help others. Lastly, to me lighthouses and lightkeepers represent a simpler time when putting others first was not as unusual. That is what I’ve come up with so far in my lighthouse contemplation. I may still come up with more. But, I can’t wait any longer to tell you about my experience with the dreamed of lighthouse!
We arrived in Maine with just enough time to set up camp and go to bed. Matt started talking about the next day when we would head into Portland. “Why not get up early and see the lighthouse during the sunrise,” he asked. What? Sunrise? I don’t do sunrises! Now, sunsets, those I love but sunrises are scheduled way too early for me. So, I pointed out that little problem PLUS our campground was planned for being central to several other things to see in Maine, but it was an hour and a half away from Portland. Lets see, sunrise at about 6 am and 1.5 hours away. That is getting up sort of early for me! (a bit of understatement here.) However, my sweet husband can be quite convincing and he mentioned more than once how disappointed I would be if I didn’t do this thing. So, we set the alarm for 4 am.
It wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated to pull myself from the warm sheets the next (ummm, can you call it morning?) morning. I was excited about this lighthouse and the opportunity to take my own photo of the most photographed lighthouse in the USA. Plus, Matt drove the distance and the passenger seat was quite snuggly. We arrived just as the predawn light was beginning. Here was my first photo of the day.
Excitement was the main feeling but I was frustrated too. Low light photography is nearly impossible without a tripod and I pretty much hate tripods. But I had it with me and planned to use it anyway. When we got to the lighthouse, (which did I mention was quite a way from our campground?) I found that the tripod was not to be used that day. Previously while in Mystic Seaport, I had used the tripod with my antique camera and left the base plate attached to it. You guessed it, that camera was still in the camper. So, I proceeded to take all these photos hand-held as the sun began to rise.
This problem did not deter me from trying however. I clicked away and didn’t realize just how many photos I was taking. Later when I counted it up, it was an unbelievable 599 images! My niece has declared me as quite crazy, but I do have a defense. This beautiful lighthouse’s light was rotating sending out rays towards me only periodically. So, I began trying to time my clicks to when the light faced me. As it got lighter, I saw all the waves of the sea and decided that I should try to get both the light and a wave! Took a lot of tries, but here is one where I captured both.
So far, all my photos had been before the sun had even peeked it’s lovely form over the horizon. Finally, it pierced through the gloom and shone against the windows of the keeper’s house.
The clouds began to break up and I kept trying to get just the perfect shot.
We were staying for several more hours. A sweet blessing was ours this day. Even with all my planning for this trip I had no idea that this was a special day. One day out of the year, Maine declares to be Open Lighthouse Day when over two dozen sites are open for free to the public. Several of these lighthouses are not open the rest of the year or if they are you need to pay to go in them. Portland Head has a museum in the keeper’s house, but the lighthouse itself is not open to the public. On our day there, it was! We just had to wait in line for one of the 300 tickets being made available for the day. My wonderful hubby was happy to wait while I clicked away. I enjoyed watching birds flying around the lighthouse.
Finally, I decided to wait along with him. Plus, we were getting hungry since we didn’t eat breakfast when we woke at that early hour. Matt asked me if I wanted to go get breakfast, which was in the truck in the parking lot. I said yes, and proceeded to bring it down with me to the line so he could eat with me. He then explained that he meant that we would take turns eating in the truck because he was afraid of a riot in the line. We did attract quite a bit of attention as we ate our hard boiled eggs and bacon that I had cooked the night before. Thankfully, the others in line were a friendly bunch and mostly poked fun of us instead of trying to get our food. In fact, we enjoyed listening to their Maine accent as they told of places to eat and things to photograph. Most of them were fellow photographers there to get the classic sunrise shot. Finally, we got our ticket. We just needed to wait another hour until our scheduled time to ascend the lighthouse.
We spent the time getting a geocache nearby and walking in the park around the lighthouse. I enjoyed the flowers planted there and of course took more photos.
Finally, the time came to enjoy the privilege of Open Lighthouse Day. Everyone was so friendly and happy as they climbed the pretty stairs.
We all felt quite privileged and enjoyed the view of the rocky coast below.
What an amazing view! We were able to see the light too. It look like a satellite to me.
A fellow lighthouse lover took our photo at the top.
It was a wonderful time at my longed for lighthouse. But we left soon afterwards to fit in two more lighthouses that would be free for us to see that day. Just a couple more pics.
Happy me at Portland Head Lighthouse. And ready to take on the rest of Maine!