Annisquam Lighthouse in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is one of my favorite places to photograph. No matter what the time of year, I frequently return to this location with camera and tripod in hand.
I’m often asked by new photographers how is it that I never tire of shooting the “same place.” My answer is simple. “It’s never the same place twice.”
Distant view from along the coastline's edge
Capturing A Mood
As with all landscape photography, weather can greatly influence the mood or feel of an image. Bright blue skies, puffy white clouds, a storm front moving in, lightning, or fog can all add drama to the mix.
But there’s something you actually control that can change things up quite a bit — it’s your shooting perspective. How many different ways can you see and capture a single scene? Experiment. Try from a high angle and then from a low one. Move in close and then try from a distance. Watch for the subtle changes in light, shadow and texture as you move, and incorporate new elements that come into view as part of your composition.
The coastline offers a few additional variables that influence an image. Let’s start with the obvious — the tide. Depending on the time of day, you may encounter high tide with the beach nowhere to be seen. That can be a good thing! If it’s a stormy day and the ocean is feeling feisty, you might get some waves crashing against the rocks.
On the flip side, low tide can create — or reveal — all sorts of things. I often discover interesting patterns formed in the sand by the retreating tide. Sometimes when the sun is at the right angle, there is a reflection of Annisquam Lighthouse in the shallow water or in the wet sand itself.
Combine the tide with the ever-changing New England weather and there you have it — Annisquam Lighthouse is never the same place twice.
Shot from down on the beach
I love the rocky shoreline of Cape Ann. Annisquam Lighthouse itself stands upon a rocky ledge at the north end of the Annisquam River. Access to many of the large rocks along the beach appears and disappears as the tide comes in and out. With each visit, I love discovering a new perspective from which to shoot.
Shot from on top of the rocks
Time of Day
Sunset at Annisquam Lighthouse is one of my favorite times of the day. It’s important to note, however, that the angle of the setting sun changes throughout the year. I use The Photographer’s Ephemeris program (both on my computer and iPhone) to check the sunset’s angle on any given day. During November, the sun sets over the mainland near Wingaersheek Beach. In the summer, however, the sunset angle shifts to over the ocean.
Capturing the sunset in November
As you can see in the sunset shot above, I had low tide, clear skies, the beach and a few rocky ledges to work with when composing my shot. The orange light was beautiful that day. It was what I chose to showcase as it filled the horizon, hit the lighthouse/keeper’s cottage, and bathed the rocks.
If you look at the very edge of the receding tide, you can see a hint of the lighthouse’s reflection. Just think how different this might have been if the tide was high, the sky featured some dramatic cumulus clouds, or the waves were crashing against the rocks.
All the reasons to come back again and again. As you can see, it’s never the same place twice.
~ Liz Mackney
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