Old Point Loma Lighthouse pictures

After taking pictures of pelicans at La Jolla this past January, Greg and I headed down to Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego to get pictures of Old Point Loma Lighthouse. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but the lighthouse was what I was really looking forward to when I woke up that day; birds and sunrises are fun and all, but I have a mild obsession with lighthouses1.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse stands on the top of a hill at the end of Point Loma, one of the peninsulas that shelter San Diego’s natural harbor.

Old Point Loma Light standing proud, seen end-on from the south on a sunny winter day.  The light is in Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego, CA.  Framing the lighthouse are three withered agave inflorescences along with fields of green bushes and trees.  The assistant keeper's quarters are visible as a separate white building behind the inflorescences. (Marc C. Perkins)
Old Point Loma Lighthouse: From the south.

The two buildings visible in that image are the primary lighthouse (the multi-story painted brick building to the left) and the assistant keeper’s house (to the right).

The lighthouse and its tower are entrancing with their contrast and symmetry:

A somewhat cropped view of Old Point Loma Light as seen from the east on a crystal clear blue sky winter's day.    The bright white painted brick building contrasts with the clear blue sky and black lantern room.  The flagpole (currently lacking a flag) can be seen to the right of the house.  The windows of the lighthouse are just barely visible at the bottom of the crop.  While I generally prefer pictures of lighthouses either tightly cropped or whole with their surroundings3, I find this view of the house to be strangely entrancing.  It seems to be standing alone in front of a clear blue sky; what's before it and behind it are unknown, open to the viewer to decide. (Marc C. Perkins)
Old Point Loma Lighthouse: From the East.

The lighthouse started operation in 1855 with a Fresnel lens; its light was visible more than 25 miles out to sea.  The lighthouse currently contains the Fresnel lens from the Mile Rocks lighthouse that was moved to the lighthouse in the 1980’s and installed with the light offset by a few inches (so it’s not nearly as powerful as it should be).

The lens and latern room are gorgeous up close:

A close-up view of the lantern room and its attached black-painted balcony seen from beneath.  The lantern room appears to be towering above the viewer, and the details on the lantern room's green (copper?) roof are easily visible.  For instance, the room can be seen to have lion or gargoyle figureheads at each of the room's 10 corners, and above each window is a cut-out pattern in the roof's edging of what look to be waves heading towards each other with the cutouts themselves appearing to be horns.   A black ladder climbs to the top of the copper roof, reading the large dome on top.  The white, black, and green building contrast beautifully with the dark blue sky. The lighthouse is in Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego, CA.  I have another version of this same view that is less cropped, if you want. (Marc C. Perkins)
Old Point Loma's Lantern Room and Attached Balcony

I didn’t notice these fully while on the site, but when I processed the images I discovered that the edge of the tower’s roof is finished with beautiful details:

A highly-cropped detail view of my "Old Point Loma: towering lantern room" image.  This crop shows the beautiful details of the construction of the lantern room's room, including lion or gargoyle figureheads at each of the roof's 10 corners, and a vertical cut-out portion of metal above each window.  This cut out patterns appears to be made to look like a series of waves heading towards each other, with the cutouts themselves appearing to be horns.   The lighthouse is in Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego, CA.  As this is a severe crop, this image is not suitable to be printed exceptionally large (maybe up to 8 or 10" wide?), though the image it comes from can probably be printed up to 20"x30". (Marc C. Perkins)
Cropped detail view of "Old Point Loma's Lantern Room and Attached Balcony"

I love the cutouts on the roof’s edging, with their Escher-esque detailing. If you look at the metal itself, it’s cut into patterns of waves flowing into each other, yet if you look at the void spaces you can see either horns or birds (I see horns, Michelle sees birds). There are also gargoyles / lions at each corner of the roof. I wonder if these details are original, or a later addition.

Old Point Loma Light is in Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego, CA.  This image is made from just south of the assistant keeper's house, showing the points of both the roofs of that building and the main lighthouse with its chimney.  Behind these, standing tall, is the lantern room of the lighthouse, with its installed lens.  The bright white buildings contrast with the clear blue sky and black lantern room. (Marc C. Perkins)
Old Point Loma Lighthouse: Angles

As the lighthouse is no longer a functioning navigational light (it was decommissioned in 1891 due to frequent interference from fog), it’s open daily for people to explore. While the latern room itself is sealed off, visitors can climb the staircase to nearly the top of the lighthouse tower (to where the window is in the “From the East” picture above). Climbing lighthouse stairways is just awesome, and this one had a little landing Greg and I could set up on to photograph the beautiful symmetry.

Lighthouse staircases are just plain awesome, and Old Point Loma Light's stairway in Cabrillo National Monument is no exception.  Greg and I spent a good half hour up at the top trying various compositions, waiting for people to stop walking in, and admiring the Nautilus-like stairway.  To bring out the textures and lines I prefer this in black and white, especially since the colors aren't particularly grabbing. (Marc C. Perkins)
Old Point Loma Lighthouse: Nautilus Stairway

That was one cramped little landing with all of our gear set up, and we both had to wait quite a while for an opportunity to capture images of the stairs with nobody else in the tower. But it was worth it, and how could one possibly mind spending time inside a lighthouse? 🙂

I’ll leave you with a final overview image, showing the lighthouse and it’s rebuilt concrete water-catchment basin with native plant landscaping:

A wide-angle view of Old Point Loma Light as seen from the east on a crystal clear blue sky winter's day.  The foreground bushes mostly block the concrete water catchment basin.  The lighthouse itself is clearly visible, as is the assistant keeper's house (to the left).  Note: Please contact me if you're interested in purchasing this image for use printed or displayed large, as I should give you some background on the image (the sky has been burned to reduce uneven polarization, and it should be test-printed before final images are made). (Marc C. Perkins)
A wide-angle view of Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the assistant keeper's house.

Oh, and if you want to see the scale of the stairway in the tower, here’s a self portrait of me in the stairway:

I'm standing on the second level of the stairway to the top of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse in Cabrillo National Monument, waving up at the camera.  Greg (of Alpenglow Images Photography) is nicely pressing the trigger of my tripod-mounted camera. (Marc C. Perkins)
Some photographer got in my shot, darn it!

Stay tuned for more lighthouse pictures!

1 This will hopefully be the inaugural post of a multi-post series highlighting lighthouses I’ve photographed in the past year. And don’t get me wrong – the pelicans at La Jolla Cove turned out to be awesome.

More pictures

To see more pictures from the lighthouse, head to my Old Point Loma Lighthouse Gallery or click on the thumbnails below.

A head-on look at the lantern room and lens of Old Point Loma Light, seen from the east.  The window visible in the lantern tower is the one visitor's can look out when they climb the lighthouse stairs.  The lighthouse's green (copper) roof is clearly visible, with its beautiful cut-out wave edging visible.  The shingle roof of the lighthouse's main building is visible at the bottom of the picture.  The lighthouse is in Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego, CA. (Marc C. Perkins) Old Point Loma Light is in Cabrillo National Monument near San Diego, CA.  This close-up shot of the lantern room seen from the south shows the currently-installed third order lens (from the Mile Rocks Lighthouse, reportedly), black balcony and maintenance latter for the roof.  The chimney of the lighthouse and roof of the assistant keeper's house can be seen in the foreground. (Marc C. Perkins)

Getting There

Cabrillo National Monument: Old Point Loma Lighthouse is in Cabrillo National Monument, which is at the end of Point Loma peninsula in San Diego, CA. The national monument’s webpage has an excellent directions page, including a great regional map. From interstate 5 you’ll need to take a few turns on city streets that aren’t necessarily well marked, so print out a good map or have your GPS handy. You’ll also be driving through an active naval base to arrive at the national monument, so park hours are strictly enforced. You’ll need to pay an entrance fee; parking was plentiful on site when we arrived on a winter weekday morning.

6 thoughts on “Old Point Loma Lighthouse pictures

  1. I particularly liked the staircase photos. Amazing the amount of work that was put into the creation of such a beautiful, functional spiral. I fear if it were built today, there wouldn’t be as much beauty incorporated in the planning. Thanks for your good view.

  2. Thanks Karoleen and Edith! I’m glad you both like the staircase photos 🙂 If you ever get to the lighthouse, be sure to climb the stairs and imagine two photographers with all of their gear set up on the tiny landing. Our feet and hands were literally inches out of the frame (and I lost a few images due to badly-located limbs).

    And I agree, Karoleen – it is wonderful how much effort was put into making the lighthouse beautiful. The construction sounds like it was an incredible endeavor back in the 1850’s – the nearest fresh water was apparently miles away, and everything had to be hauled in over the rough hilly terrain, making it even more neat that they added those details.

    The Mile Rocks lighthouse is a sad example of modern lighthouses. It was originally built in 1906 outside the Golden Gate Bridge, but then was mostly destroyed when it became automated in 1966 (which is why Old Point Loma has its lens). The Wikipedia page on the lighthouse (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mile_Rocks_Light) has before and after pictures; the “modern” lighthouse is decidedly lacking in beauty.

  3. I would love to buy a couple of the point loma lighthouse pictures if possible.
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  4. Thank you for these lovely photos! I was a Park Ranger at Cabrillo from 1978-1982 and I installed the Fresnel lens during the tower reconstruction. The lion/gargoyle downspouts are original. In the archives is a plaster cast in case the park ever had to replace one. I also had the pleasure and honor of dressing as the lighthouse keeper during living history presentations. Those years were very special to me and your photos bring back pleasant memories! Thank you!

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