Focused Light


These two shots were taken in quick succession, as I lay on my stomach in the windswept golden grass. I liked the both, so was delighted that this weeks photo challenge asks us to focus on focus. It gives me a great excuse for posting both shots, and asking which you prefer.

There is something about lighthouses which captures my imagination, sweeping me off into childhood tales of sea journeys, pirates, shipwrecks and kidnapping. As a child I imagined how wonderfully different it would be to live in one of these icons of the storm filled coast. Cut off from the rest of the world, living in the heart of sea storms, valiantly keeping the light shining what ever the weather seemed impossibly romantic. The reality was perhaps somewhat different, but I hated the idea of automated lighthouses, it killed the whole wild tale in my head. It sucked the romance out of a light tended by hand, to save countless unknown lives at sea.

In Gaelic they are called taigh solais, which translates as house of light, which feels more romantic and less functional than the English equivalent. The original lights were used to guide boats safely into harbour, shining out across the waves, drawing boats in like moths. Later they became warning lights, built on treacherous reef filled coasts, the light kept the boats safely at bay out in deep clear water. I find this sharp shift in use and so symbolism fascinating. The light switched from one of safety and home, to one of danger and distance, and because of this lots of work was done to create lenses which could focus the light more intensely, thus giving it greater reach across the waves.

There was a flurry of lighthouse building in the 19th century, but now having been automated in the middle of the 20th century, lots have recently been decommissioned following a review of provision. This one at Barns Ness in East Lothian, was built by David A Stevenson, a member of Scotland’s famous lighthouse building family. It survived machine gun fire during the second world war only to be darkened on 27th October 2005. Deemed no longer necessary it stopped shining its unique light signature across this stretch of water, and now sadly stands in darkness as night falls, it’s heart and purpose lost, no longer a bright house of light.
Until 1966 its paraffin lamp was manned by two lighthouse keepers, after semi automation this fell to one keeper, and after full automation in 1986 it lost its keeper altogether. Once they are fully automated lighthouses are remotely monitored, and this whole process to me feels like the slow removal of the soul of the light and its tower. Each light had its own pattern, so that sailors could know exactly where the lighthouse was, and orientate themselves even when tossed about in a wild dark night storm. To me this gives the light a personality and a soul, which would be linked to the soul of the keepers who tended the lamps, how sad that this one has been snuffed out.

May the light shine out of your eyes like a bright lamp in a window at night, welcoming strangers into warmth and company. (an old Gaelic blessing)

About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home on the shores of Loch Ness deep in the Scottish Highlands with my husband, my son and a couple of dogs. I love art which is here now and gone food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist and Cancer Support Specialist in Maggies Highlands
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78 Responses to Focused Light

  1. Scotland is definitely on my bucket list. Awesome blog. You are blessed to live in such lovely place. I teach history so I love, love your blog.

  2. Wow! This shot is breathtaking!

  3. mithriluna says:

    Oh my gosh. Incredible images and wonderful essay. I love lighthouses and your pictures are stunning. I really like the gaelic blessing at the end.

    • Thanks so much for your lovely feedback. It’s always great to hear from a fellow lighthouse lover, and I’m glad you like the Celtic blessing….it always conjures up a wonderful image for me of bright shining eyes full of warmth ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. just beautiful! greetings from Berlin…

  5. Jessie says:

    Wonderful, wonderful! I love the first and the last photos but perhaps I love the narrative more! I have a rather landlocked life here smack dab in the middle of the USA (Wisconsin) and it’s nice to hear that someone who actually see’s lighthouses more often then me also has “incurably romantic” feelings about them! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Lynne Ayers says:

    A great post! I am sure you are an old soul, so in tune you seem to be with the stories and histories in which your country is steeped.

  7. Liana says:

    I love this post so much it hurts.

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  9. S. Mariam says:

    H and me at have nominated you for the Versatile blogger award! Please read this post! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. timurzey says:

    The perspective you shot from definitely makes you feel small but such a part of the atmosphere and mood of that day.
    Love, equanimity, peace. TimurZ

  11. Suzanne says:

    Great shots. I really loved the last one. The lighthouse acts like a beacon leading the eye up into the light of the sky.

  12. your photos are so evocative, I can almost feel the breeze blowing through my hair! I prefer the first lighthouse shot as the second is making my eyes swim (perhaps it has an in-built tired-ometer in it and it’s actually whispering ”go to bed and close your eyes”)

  13. Love the colors and the perspective. I love the grasses that you brought into your shot.

    • Thanks Charlie, I wanted to bring it in to somehow ground the lighthouse which otherwise seemed to drift off into the sky. Also I liked the way it brought the winds motion into the photo. Of course as usual for me it required me to lie down among the grasses….I was quite grubby by the time I had caught the shots I wanted.

  14. Nikki says:

    Just beautiful! The photos and the accompany-ing words. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for sharing!

  15. So Beautiful! The golden grain reminds me of the wheat fields of the plains. But what would a light house be doing there?

  16. zark66 says:

    Wow!!! Wonderful!

  17. restlessjo says:

    Thank you for the lovely blessing ๐Ÿ™‚ I prefer the first shot where the lighthouse is clearly focused but it so depends on the subject matter, doesn’t it? Lighthouses always make good photo opportunities. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Really nice, indeed beautiful, homage to the noble houses of light. I too honor and respect them, like you do, as individuals. It is too bad that automation and technology has deemed them no longer of much use. You may find it interesting that even though the lighthouse may be an anachronism there are still folks out there who appreciate them for what they are and what they used to be. Check out this site … D

    • Thanks for the link David, very interesting. There is just something wonderful about the way the old paraffin lights were tended and kept burning through wild dark storms. The ingenuity of people in the past creating a way, without electricity, to solve a problem. I am always in awe of human ingenuity, which I think was tested and used more in the past.

  19. Hanna says:

    Lighthouses on windswept coasts, changing light caused by clouds that play tag, and an old Gaelic blessing.
    A mysterious lighthouse keeper, romance and lots of drama ๐Ÿ˜›
    This is a lovely post …
    All the best!

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  21. umashankar says:

    A haunting, allegorical narration with telling images. I can identify with many of those emotions.

  22. They certainly give you a sense of living beings, the lighthouses. I love the first one best too, but I think the last one is enigmatic. In literature the lighthouse is often used (often as symbols too of course) and that I think because they have a soul and a special meaning to people in general. When my husband turned 50 we went to ( and all the guests too) a lonely island where we stayed the night in a lighthouse.

    • I think the first one wins hands down on votes ๐Ÿ™‚
      A love of lighthouses is yet another thing we have in common, and that party in the lighthouse sounds wonderful. I think I would like to do that when I turn 50.

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  24. The Rider says:

    I love the subject you have chosen and your take on it!

  25. Lucid Gypsy says:

    These are all wonderful images, I think I like the first best of all. The demise of the lighthouse is so sad, another piece of our history lost.

  26. Stephanie says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhh……breathing out feelings of peacefulness. Thank you.

  27. Lovely photos for this challenge!

    • Thanks Janaline, as I say it gave me a great excuse for using both photos. I like the feeling of movement in the second shot even though the lighthouse is out of focus ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Amy says:

    Beautiful shots! The last one is dramatic. Thank you for sharing the background information!

  29. mtphotoii says:

    I really like the shots in the grass.

    It’s a fantastic use of foreground (grass) midlevel (lighthouse) and background (sky)

    – Michael

  30. Tina Schell says:

    Lovely Seonaid, you know I’m a sucker for lighthouses :-). And love the Gaelic blessing! Good job!!

  31. I would go with the first of the two ‘focus’ photographs. The fourth image has a wonderful tone to it. Lighthouses are just one of many evocative elements of the sea along with fishing boats, sheltered coves, lobster pots, beached seaweed, rock pools, sandcastles!

    • Couldn’t agree more about all the evocative elements of the sea, and I can’t get enough of any of them. I adore the wonderful, wonderful emotion filled sea ๐Ÿ™‚
      I think everyone agrees that photo one is best ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. cynthiamc1 says:

    Maybe there’s hope. Our Ponce Inlet lighthouse was dark for a time, but is working again. The locals got it going. Maybe yours could do the same. There is nothing more sad than a darkened lighthouse.

  33. I, too, love lighthouses and enjoyed your wonderful shots of this one. Thanks for the commentary as well.


  34. I love all the shots, but as you asked us which of the opening two we prefer. I plump for the first one, with the sharp-focus lighthouse. That last image is divine. Very romantic images, all. One can almost imagine Rapunzel letting down her golden hair, into the golden field.

    • Now that’s a great idea for a new use for the now sadly redundant lighthouse. I’m off to call Rapunzel to let her know ๐Ÿ™‚
      I think I agree with your choice of photo, but then I get caught by the grass!

  35. hey i jus noticed the Gaelic for ‘house’ is the same as the Welsh; Taigh/Tลท ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Caro Woods says:

    Another set of stunning photos!

  37. Lovely shots, the last one looks almost like a painting!

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