Photographer's Passion Project Hopes to Preserve Lighthouses

When a passion project collides with a good cause, it's a win-win, and photographer and videographer David Zapatka's lighthouse photography project is just that.

Zapatka was featured recently on PBS NewsHour for his project that is documenting lighthouses at night. One of the main reasons he's making these photos is to highlight the dangers that rising sea levels and climate change have had on these architectural wonders. Many of the lighthouses he's photographed are in danger of being lost to the sea, and the project aims to capture their beauty and function.

Zapatka has photographed more than 175 lighthouses over the last eight years and often goes to some great lengths to make an image. For instance, for many photos, he wades into the water to place a tripod in or will use a 20-foot tripod off of a boat to get a steady image for his long exposure photography. His photos usually incorporate stars or the Milky Way for added effect, something he says that's come about as digital cameras improve in sensor tech to be able to capture higher quality at night. He drives an RV to lighthouses along the east coast.

It's not easy to make a photo of a lighthouse at night. A lot of conditions have to line up. Zapatka says that an ideal shooting night involves a new moon or near-new moon, low tide or no tide, and no clouds (if you're aiming to capture stars, that last one's a bit of a given). I can't tell you the number of times one or sometimes all of these things have hosed a shot and I have had to make do.

If you're interested in learning more about David Zapatka's lighthouse work and seeing some of his lighthouse photos, check out the PBS Newshour piece or check out some of his work on his Instagram page.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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