Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Lime Kiln Lighthouse

A few months ago, while reading something about Lighthouses, I wondered if there were any local Lighthouses in the local Puget Sound area. It seemed logical, given all the water in and around the area!

After a bit of research, I discovered that there were several Lighthouses in the greater Puget Sound area, but that most of them were simply not “active”. Seems there are only a few that are still sending out a light or a beacon at night.

I also discovered that unlike the tall, grand, East Coast and Great Lakes Lighthouses, these local Lighthouses looked like...well...more like small houses with a small cupola on top! (Duh, “Light House”!)

I determined which of these were still active at night and decided to visit and photograph one at “Lime Kiln” State park, on San Juan Island.

I asked Sandi if she would like to join me and make an overnight trip of it, since it was a few hours away and would take the whole day to get there and wait for sunset etc. She agreed to join me in my little adventure and we booked a motel on nearby Whidbey island, so we wouldn’t have to make the long drive home that same night.

My goal was to capture the Lighthouse at, or just after dusk. I wanted to be able to capture some of the light from the Lighthouse’s lens if possible. Not a terribly difficult shot, but it would require some timing.

The morning of our little trip to San Juan Island, it was pouring rain. Arghhhhhhh!! I packed up my gear and we headed out, hopeful that the weather would be better two or three hours north!

A few hours later we had reached Anacortes and enjoyed some unexpected sunshine and blue skies!!?? To the immediate south, we could see literally, a mile high wall of dark clouds. Not knowing how long the line might be at the ferry terminal, we decided to get some lunch at a local place called the “Shrimp Shack”. My brother in law had recommended it highly and said it was an old school, shack of a place...but that it had great fish and fresh “peel and eat” shrimp by the lb. I figured we had enough time, so we made our way to the unassuming little dive, just north of Deception Pass.

 We enjoyed some amazing Cod as well as the requisite 2 lb's of fresh shrimp! We had fun sitting outside in the sunshine like two kids...peeling and tearing the heads off a hundred or more tasty shrimp! We realized, it had been a long time since Sandi and I had been anywhere without one,or both of our kids. It was nice to just hang out with each other.

I checked the time and we decided we had better get moving, as we were unfamiliar with the Anacortes Ferry and its Terminal. We took off for the Ferry Terminal and after following our less than accurate GPS, we arrived at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Just in time I might add! Had we missed this Ferry, the next one would not have made it to San Juan Island before sunset, dashing any hopes of a photo at dusk!

We drove onto the Ferry, got out of our car and strolled around the top deck of the Ferry, enjoying the calm water and surprisingly blue sky! First stop was Lopez Island, where a few passengers disembarked, then it was off to San Juan Island. We glimpsed a pod of Orcas along the way, though they were quite a distance away. We watched as their blowholes would create little blasts of water and air as they surfaced every so often.  We also passed another Ferry that was making the return trip to Anacortes. 

Upon arriving at San Juan Island, we disembarked and made the 20-25 minutes drive to Lime Kiln State Park, on the Southwestern side of the island. As we parked and got out of the car, we noticed that the clouds were steadily moving in. I hoped they would not overtake our little scene, before we got a few photos!

We walked about a hundred yards down to the water and the Lighthouse came into view. I must admit, I was a bit was so small! Why wasn’t the light visible!? Oh well, I set about finding the angle I wanted and I set up my tripod. Meanwhile, Sandi walked some 60-70 yards south of me to a designated “whale watching” point.

I took a few test shots, then walked around and snapped a few pics from some angles that I found less pleasing, as I waited for the sun to set into the horizon. And the clouds kept rolling in! Arghhhh! I then walked over to where Sandi was anxiously waiting to see a whale or an Orca. She is like a little girl at times like this...eyes wide, grinning and hopeful and grateful to see things uncommon to our daily life. She ooooh'd and ahhhh'd over a couple of seals that came close to shore and she patiently waited to see something bigger. I love seeing her like this.

The sun had started to move and as it set over over the nearby British Columbia coast, I started to see that the light in the Lighthouse was on! Seems that the rather small light source is reflected through “lenses” that focus the light and really only do it justice when it is much darker.

As the sky darkened a bit more, and the scene was still illuminated enough to capture the Lighthouse and its surrounding cliffs and shoreline, I began taking pictures...15-20 second exposures, making certain that I could still capture a bit of the yellowish light shining through the glass lens atop the Lighthouse.

Now, while I was trying to get my “Solitary Lighthouse” shot, there was a couple, hanging around...walking...sitting..and it was all directly in front of the darn Lighthouse! I decided that it was better to get the shot with them in it, than not at all! I also figured that they might not show up at all, given the dim lighting. A few of the shots I took had the couple sitting and raising their cameras out towards the water. What they were photographing, I had no idea...I just know that they were in my photo!! (Maybe you can spot them in the photo?)

     The Lime Kiln Lighthouse
About this time, Sandi comes running up to me excited and smiling, telling me she just saw a whale! She asked if I was getting the photos I wanted and then told me she was going back to look for more whales! She was certainly enjoying our little trip to San Juan Island!

About 30 minutes later, I lost the light needed to take the photos I was after. I packed up my gear and headed back to the car with Sandi, who sadly, had not seen any more whales. We commented on how we looked to have beat the rain, though the clouds had fully covered the sky at this point. I hoped they wouldn’t screw up my pics too much.

We drove back to the Ferry Terminal and found no one there but us!? Seems I had misread the schedule ( which had just changed that day/for the Fall) so we would have to take the last Ferry out, which left in about an hour and a half. We were hungry, so we checked out a little restaurant near the Terminal. We enjoyed a relaxing dinner, talked a bit about the whales, the Ferry ride and the trip as a whole. I even ordered some hot tea at the end of dinner...a sure sign of me being relaxed and enjoying myself!

We walked back to our car and when the Ferry arrived, we found that we were only one of two cars heading back to Anacortes that night! The attendants pulled us all the way up to the forward-most parking spot, at the bow of the Ferry Boat. Sandi covered up in a blanket and reclined her seat, to settle in for an hour and a half nap. I reviewed photos I had taken earlier and watched the Ferry moving through the night between the green and red marker buoy’s, about a half mile behind another Ferry in the distance.

In the belly of the San Juan Islands Ferry

I exited the car to stretch and stood alone at the front of the Ferry as it quietly moved through the darkness...a cold, crisp wind pushing past me and through the empty, hollow belly of the Ferry. I thought back on the day...I always seem to “review” the days happenings. (I think too much) It had been a busy, long, time-pressed day, but it had also been fun, exciting and even a bit adventurous. Sandi had seen her whales, and I had gotten my photos. Both of us having enjoyed the trip, the scenery and each other.

I think I may have even smiled...

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