Monday, September 1, 2008

Point Montara


This was a long weekend, Labor day. Eddie and family where busy doing other things such as the start of the school season. My weekend was to be one that I would spend on my own. My quest is to photograph all the lighthouses in California in one year. Eddie and his family are integral part of that quest, yet I did not want to waste any time so I decided I was going for sunset shots at Point Montara. Point Montara is very easy to get to. Its near Moss beach in Montara at the junction of 16th and Highway 1. I took San Mateo bridge from Castro Valley, headed on 92 to Half moon bay. Made a right turn unto highway 1 towards Pacifica and found the lighthouse at the Junction of 16th street and highway 1, about 7 miles south of Pacifica or North of Halfmoon Bay. Don't forget to register at the office when you arrive.




The location of lighthouse is easy to get to, and it does not involve any climbling, trekking or boat riding, once you are in the parking lot find somewhere to park. Be prepared for the views which are beautiful, rustic and spectacular. It has the typical charm of lighthouse building. The tower is metal or cast iron with a riveted frame, it housed a forth order Fresnel Lens. Light Keepers building is behind the lighthouse victorian style, it now houses the staff or point workers. and a foghorn building which has been modified to house hostelers is to the right. Their is also a steep hill to a secluded beach,it is worth the trek. The office behind the lighthouse building serves coffee and it tastes quite good. So being by myself this day, I lack the excitement of the adventure of family. Still I met a few people and helped them take their shots with cell phones and point & shoot cameras. Its amazing how many people leave out the most important just get a close up of the person. There was also a wedding party there and they where entralled with the sunset. Taking their numerous pictures they failed to notice the charm of the sunset with the lighthouse. I also met an Indian family from Canada there daughter was conceived in one of the light house hostels. Its amazing what people will tell you when you open the doors of communication. I sat for awhile and just enjoyed the sunset.By the end of the day I had my fix, beautiful weather, wonderful scenary and of course nice people, what more could you ask for.




The Sunset was beautiful, I watched as it wrapped its golden light around the white tower. Cast its warm glow on the fog signal building, and the keepers house took on an extra glow to show off its charm. I think sunsets is when the lighthouse shows off its best profile. Dark white on one side and a golden yellow on the other. I get a sense of peace as I observe the fading light of the evening. Birds come and fly over head, the mast next to the lighthouse has a spiritual intonation. Its like the cross of the mast is saying that the cross of Christ is the light to the world. I took a number of shots from many perspectives and used wide angle to zoom. 3 cameras where in constant action. G9, 40D and 5D, lens on the 5D was 17-40 and on the 40D 24-105. I did not use a flash or tripod. I show only a few shots to give the traditional view. I want the viewer to see the lighthouse for it is the subject and the story, its the echo of the past.






History Time


20 Miles South of San Francisco in San Mateo in a small town called Montara is a cast iron lighthouse, with a Victorian style Keepers residence, Fog signal building and a residence for hostelers. Due to intense pea soup fog in the area a fog signal station was established in 1875. In 1882 a backup fog signal was built. Many a ship had met its fate at the end of the jagged rocks in Montara. It took two major incident in 1868 and 1872 to make congress act and establish a lighthouse. 1868 The steamship Colorado carrying hundreds of passengers and mail ran aground. The area became known as Colorado reef. In 1872 a British ship known as aculeo ran aground in the same area, it had be lost at sea due to the heavy fog. Congress established a 12 inch Steam whistle, whose sound could be heard for several miles. Its blast lasted upto 5 seconds. the operation of the fog signal did not come cheap, it used between 100,000 to 200,000 lbs of coal every year. This did not stop ships from running aground. It was not until 1900 did the first light shine, it consisted of a red kerosene lantern hung on a post. It could be seen upto 12 miles offshore. 1901 a new fog signal was installed , and in 1912 a fourth order Fresnel lens was installed on a skeleton tower. it had 1700 candel power and flashed every 2 1/2 seconds. Its power was incresed to 25000 candels in 1919 ,the light was electrified and in 1928 a 30ft cast Iron tower was setup to house the Fresnel lens.











It was discovered that the tower made its way from cape cod to Yerba Buena Island and then to Point Montara. It was built in Wellfeet Harbor Cape cod. Where it stood as a lightstation until it was decommissioned in 1922.Its the only known lighthouse to have made its watch on two different oceans. During WWII it housed military units with dogs to patrol the beaches, and an artillery unit. It was served by 3 Coast Guard keepers and in 1970 was automated. Another note is that while it was on Mayo beach in Cape cod it had the first woman lightkeeper.


With automation came abandonment, and the building fell into disrepair. Through a number of partnerships the Lighthouse was restored and it now houses thousands of hostelers over the years. It has a beautiful rustic view and the people you meet are culturally enriching. Today an offshore signal has replaced the fog signal and a small modern optic has replaced the fresnal lens.

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