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)