Looking for a new Ohio place to photograph this winter? Check out Marblehead Lighthouse, a picturesque Buckeye favorite and the oldest operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
Directions: Marblehead Lighthouse is located at 110 Lighthouse Drive, Marblehead, OH 43440. Marblehead is about 80 miles west of Cleveland, 125 miles north of Columbus, and 55 miles east of Toledo.
Tel: (419) 734-4424
GPS Coordinates: 41.536357N 82.712247W
Marblehead Lighthouse, located about a mile east of the town of Marblehead, is the oldest operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. Built from local limestone in 1821, the 65-foot beacon is crowned by a red roof and red metal balcony. The lighthouse is said to be the most photographed structure in Ohio, and its image has appeared on a U.S. postage stamp as well as on Ohio vehicle plates. Next to the lighthouse is a picturesque keeper’s cottage, painted white like the lighthouse. The limestone shoreline around the lighthouse makes a good foreground for wide-angle views of this historic beacon. Since 1998, Marblehead Lighthouse has been operated as an Ohio State Park.
Marblehead Lighthouse is a popular tourist destination during the warm months, especially on weekends, so try to avoid these times, especially during the middle of the day, unless you want to photograph the lighthouse surrounded by crowds of visitors. The rocks below the lighthouse are a great place for photographing the sun rising over the Lake Erie horizon, and the lighthouse is photogenic from all four points of the compass. During the summer months, you can tour the interior of the lighthouse and climb the sixty-seven stairs of the spiral staircase ( very photogenic) to the top, which provides great views of Lake Erie and Kelleys Island to the north.
In cold winters, when Lake Erie ices over, the rocks at the base of the lighthouse are one of my favorite locations for photographing the ice as it breaks up in late winter, usually in early March. Sunrise, which occurs around 8:00 a.m. right now but around 6:45 a.m. in early spring, is the best time for ice photography here, on clear or partly cloudy days. Be sure to wear Yaktrax on your boots to avoid slipping on the icy rocks, and don’t venture out on the ice unless it is extremely thick. Kelleys Island is about 3 miles north of Marblehead, reached by a twenty-minute ferry ride, and the Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve is nearby on Marblehead Peninsula.
The two ice photographs were taken below the lighthouse on the same morning, about 20 minutes apart, from almost the same position, looking in different directions. It’s amazing how much the light can change in just a few minutes around sunrise. That’s why it’s important to arrive well before dawn, so you can scout for good compositions and maximize your photography opportunities during the fleeting, early morning light.