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Pigeon Point Lighthouse, California

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My first encounter with this incredible structure was back in 1984 when I was stationed at Ft. Ord near Monterey California.


Each year around the third week of November they light the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and let the 24 main beams remain still for about 5 minutes so photographers can take long exposure pictures of the lighthouse. Afterwards the beams begin to rotate so that to a distant ship, they will see one flash every 10 seconds. I have been to this event several times since learning about it a number of years ago. Each year is different and more and more photographers show up.


If you plan to shoot this event I recommend you bring the following:


. A heavy duty tripod due to the wind and long exposure required.

. Remote control cable release (or infrared if your camera supports it) You can use the timer if you don't have one.

. Better lenses tend to take less time to capture the image.

. Lunch and Dinner so you can arrive early and stake out your real estate for the optimal shot.

. Warm clothing. We even bring chairs and blankets.

. A red flashlight so not to disrupt yours and other photographers night vision. Nothing will upset another photographer like hitting them square in the face with a 5 cell Mag light.

. A donation to restore this spectacular lighthouse which was damaged in 2001.


This shot was taken from the recently built platform that extends to the south side of the lighthouse. There is also a new path down to the beach that wasn't there last year. If the tide is out this year it might be a better position because you could get the reflection of the beams in the

water. I'll have to arrive early and check out the conditions.


In 1853 the Clipper Ship Carrier Pigeon ran aground on rocks off the coast and sank. After several other ships followed suit it was decided to build the lighthouse was finished and lit for the first time on November 15th 1872. This event is celebrated each year with the lighting of the main lens. During the rest of the year, curtains block the view of the lens.


An electric light maintained by the Coast Guard replaces the main lens. In December of 2001 a large chunk of metal and concrete came tumbling to the ground. This effectively closed the lighthouse to the public and tours to the top are restricted to special guest. Pigeon Point Lighthouse now belongs to the State Park system and since the damage they have been attempting to raise the millions of dollars necessary to restore the lighthouse. Currently metal cables have been secured to the top of the lighthouse and a chain link fence surrounds the lighthouse. The cables have started rusting and caused long orange streaks of rust to run down the side of the normally all white structure. It effectively ruins many daytime photographs. So if you can bring a few dollars to donate it is greatly appreciated by all us photographers. If you cannot make it to the lighthouse but would like to help, please visit the official site at



- Darv

© Darvin Atkeson

California Photography

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Taken on December 16, 2007