Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Buxton, NC
This lighthouse is open to the public - or should I say, overrun by the public. I was here during the midday, so the granddaddy of all lighthouses was very well attended. From a preservation standpoint, I am very happy for this, but it did provide some photographic challenges.

Photo suggestions:The shear size of this lighthouse provides all sorts of possibilities, even at its new location. Gone are the opportunities of the lighthouse sitting on the edge of the beach, but the beach itself is still not too far away - with a little creativity, you can stand on the edge of the water with a wide angle lens and capture this huge structure on the horizon. The view from the top provides some spectacular "arial" photographic opportunities, especially on clear days. NOTE: backpacks, large bags, and tripods are not allowed in while climbing the lighthouse, so keep your camera gear to a minimum.

A classic vertical shot of the biggest lighthouse in the U.S.
Viewing down at the lightkeeper's house and support structures, sitting at their new locations.
Looking towards the Atlantic Ocean, you can see the former home of the lighthouse (just to the left of the jetty), and the remains of the pathway cleared to move the structure to its present location.
A somewhat mysterious super-telephoto view of the lighthouse taken from a sand dune a few miles away. Heat waves distort the view of the horizon.

Okracoke Lighthouse
Okracoke, NC
One word can describe this lighthouse and surroundings: Quaint. This lighthouse is not open to the public, but a boardwalk has been set up to get within twenty or so feet of it.

Photo suggestions:The lighthouse itself appears to be best lit from late morning to mid-afternoon, if you utilize the boardwalk described above. The town takes on a New England look, so shooting across from the north side of the bay in the early morning or late afternoon will provide some spectacular results.

A view from the parking lot of the NC-DOT ferry service yields an historical look.
This classic shot of the lighthouse was taken from the boardwalk.
A closeup of the lantern house and smaller order Fresnel lens.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse
Cape Lookout
National Seashore, NC
This lighthouse is the most difficult to access of the five. But it also has some of the most beautiful natural surroundings as well. The only way to access the cape is via various private passenger ferry services offered from Harker's Island. The one we utilized is Harkers Island Fishing Center, Inc. The facility also has a motel, which makes early morning trips over to the cape very convenient. Currently, visitors are only allowed up to the top of the lighthouse on an extremely limited basis (about once a year, by way of a reservation list), but the National Park Service does have a small museum and gift shop in the lightkeepers house.

Photo suggestions:This lighthouse is badly in need of paint. I was told by NPS staff that the paint has supposedly been acquired, but has yet to be applied. The airport-style beacon operates 24 hours a day, offering some extended hours of late morning and early evening shooting opportunities. The lighthouse is visible from Harkers Island, but requires a telephoto in excess of 400mm (for 35mm cameras). The best photo opportunities are on the cape itself, whether you take a ferry for a few hour visit, or camp overnight in tents or in various cabins or villas on the cape (if you do camp, I have been informed that the mosquitoes are very bad here, too).

A telephoto view across Back Sound from Harker's Island late in the evening.
A patriotic view taken from the four-wheel-drive tour services lot.
The south side of the lighthouse reveals the current poor condition of the paint. As a point of trivia, the black diamonds face north and south, the white diamonds face east and west.
One last view from the Ocean beach. The beautiful beaches on the cape are lightly patronized due to its remoteness, making for a serene visit free of commercialism as well as thousands of screaming kids and drunk college students.

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Last updated August 28, 2003
All images ©Mark S. Wurst Photography, all rights reserved.