Picture Ohio! – Marblehead Lighthouse, Ottawa County

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.

Marblehead Lighthouse
Marblehead Lighthouse

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

Website: http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks/parks/marblehead/tabid/763/Default.aspx

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.

Sunrise at Marblehead
Sunrise at Marblehead

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.

Early Morning Near Marblehead Lighthouse
Early Morning Near Marblehead Lighthouse

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.

Ice Ghosts at Edgewater Park, Lake Erie

Ice Ghosts, Edgewater Park
Ice Ghosts, Edgewater Park

Sony Alpha 850, 24-70mm lens, ISO 200, F/16 at 1/125th second

On December 13, 2010 high winds and sub-zero temperatures along the Lake Erie shoreline sent waves crashing into breakwalls, depositing a thick layer of ice on the rocks,  vegetation, fishing piers and other structures, including the West Pierhead Light at the mouth of Cleveland Harbor. At Edgewater Park, west of downtown Cleveland, the shoreline was transformed into frozen sculptures, like the ice ghosts in the photograph above.

Cleveland West Pierhead Light from Wendy Park
Cleveland West Pierhead Light from Wendy Park

Nikon D7000, 200-400mm lens, ISO 200, F/11 at 1/320th second

The photograph above,  of the West Pierhead Light at the entrance to Cleveland Harbor, was taken in Wendy Park on Whiskey Island, east of Edgewater Park.

Two weeks after the storm, many of the ice formations remain. Parking areas and pathways are heavily iced and walking is extremely hazardous, so be sure to wear Yak Trax or similar footwear to avoid slipping on the ice.

Picture Ohio! – The Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls

Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Sinar F 4×5-inch View Camera, 90mm lens, Fujichrome Velvia

Directions: The Cuyahoga River Gorge is located in Cuyahoga Falls, about 5 miles north of downtown Akron. The most impressive part of the gorge stretches from Broad Street, south along Front Street for about a quarter of a mile. The Sheraton Suites hotel is alongside the upper section of the gorge, on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River. The Rte. 8 Expressway flanks the gorge on the east side. Approaching from the north or south on Rte. 8, exit at Broad Street, go west one block, and turn left (south) on Front Street. The best place to park is at the south end of the Sheraton Suites parking lot, or you can park along Front Street a bit further south.

Website: (Sheraton Suites area map)

http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/property/area/map.html?propertyID=802

GPS: 41.129782N 81.483038W

Perhaps I’m biased, because I live in Cuyahoga Falls, but the display of icicles along the cliffs of the Cuyahoga River Gorge in winter is the best I have seen anywhere  in Ohio. Thanks to a new city park, the icicles are also very accessible for photography.

Over thousands of years, the Cuyahoga River has carved a deep gorge just south of downtown Cuyahoga Falls, featuring 80-foot cliffs of Sharon Conglomerate sandstone in the steepest section, just south of the Sheraton Suites hotel. The river tumbles over several small waterfalls above and below the hotel, and in winter icicles line the cliffs for several hundred feet downstream. Most of the icicles are white or light blue, but some are stained brown from the minerals that seep out of the cliffs, as you can see in the photograph above, taken in 1990  from the base of the cliffs after a hazardous, 1/4-mile scramble from the end of the Glens hiking trail, carrying a Sinar F view camera in a Kelty backpack and a heavy Bogen tripod.

From 1879 to the 1920s, High Bridge Glens Park operated as a summer resort at Front Street and Prospect Avenue, featuring a dance pavilion, waterfalls, a cavern, rock formations, and a roller coaster. Included in the park was the High Glens Bridge, a suspension footbridge built 80 feet above the Cuyahoga River. At the height of its popularity in the 1890s, the park attracted up to 60 trainloads of visitors a day, and the dancing pavilion was packed with hundreds of people in the evening. The popularity of the park began to decline in 1912 when a local power company built a dam downstream from the park which destroyed some of the best scenery, and the park closed in the 1920s, when factories were built along Front Street that blocked access to the river. During 2009 the Prospect Avenue Observation Bridge was restored, a gazebo was built, and a three-level wooden ramp with several viewing areas was constructed in the gorge. The new High  Bridge Glens Park, complete with an Ohio historical marker, was opened by Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don L. Robart on October 14, 2009.

Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Nikon D2X, 16-85mm lens, ISO 100, f/16 at 1/15-second

Begin your visit by walking out on the newly restored Prospect Avenue Overlook Bridge, which provides great views of the Cuyahoga River gorge to the north and south. There are a couple of waterfalls just north of the bridge, and the main group of icicles lines the overhanging base of the cliffs on the east side of the river to the south. A wide-angle lens will let you capture the entire gorge, or you can zoom in with a telephoto lens to isolate one of the waterfalls upriver or a group of icicles downstream. A sturdy tripod is indispensable for fine-tuning your compositions and allowing the use of low ISO settings to maximize image quality. The photograph above was taken from the Prospect Avenue Overlook Bridge.

Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Sony Alpha 850, 70-300mm lens, ISO 100, F/11 at 1/10-second

For a bird’s-eye view of the icicles, walk south from the observation bridge to the gazebo, then follow the zigzag boardwalk down to several viewing platforms. The final one is perched about 45 feet above the river. There is an American sycamore tree and a few other small trees in front of the viewing platform, but in winter, without leaves, the trees don’t obscure much of the view of the icicles, which are directly in front of you across the river.  The photograph shown above was taken from the lowest viewing platform.

Icicles are best photographed on overcast days, when the diffuse light from the cloudy sky minimizes the tonal contrast in the gorge, which can range from black in the shadows under the cliffs to pure white in some of the icicles.  The visual complexity of the icicle formations is not usually enhanced by direct sun, which creates bright highlights and deep shadows with a dynamic range that can be hard to capture, even with the latest digital camera technology.

January usually provides the best (i.e. coldest) conditions that are needed for a great icicle display. The cold weather during December, 2010 has produced a spectacular display of icicles in the gorge, but the temperature is predicted to warm up into the low 40’s during the last week of the month, so make haste and visit soon if you would like to view the Cuyahoga River Gorge at its wintry best!

The Sheraton Suites hotel’s Piatto Novo restaurant offers good food and panoramic views of the gorge, and is a great place to warm up and  enjoy lunch  after your icy photo shoot.

We Welcome Your Comments

This is the first Picture Ohio! article, and we would love to receive your comments and suggestions, either via our Ian Adams Photography Facebook Page or via email (ijadams@neo.rr.com) if you prefer.