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Photographing Split Rock Lighthouse

Updated on May 8, 2014

Capturing the Perfect Photo

During a trip to Minnesota, I was able to photograph Split Rock Lighthouse. When we were planning the trip, I spent some time reading up on the lighthouses and studying photographs from other photographers. I had heard that Split Rock was one of the most photographed lighthouses in the USA. That gave me a big challenge. What could I do differently to get a unique photograph of this much photographed lighthouse?

When we arrived in Minnesota, we saw that it was peak time for the fall colors and I decided that if I could capture the lighthouse with some great foliage perhaps I could get that unique shot.

In all I shot nearly 250 photos of the lighthouse from a variety of angles. I think the one here is my favorite, but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As you read about my adventure to photograph the lighthouse and see my photos, think about which you prefer and let me know your favorite in the comments at the end.

all photos by the author, mbgphoto

My First View of Split Rock Lighthouse - views along Hwy 61

My first view of Split Rock Lighthouse was at a wayside stop along Hwy 61 about 1/2 mile from the turn off for the lighthouse. It was a rather gray looking day, which made the sky look very dull, but on the other hand it really brought out the colors in the fall foliage. I walked along the path at the wayside stop photographing the lighthouse from various angles. I took about 50-60 different shots, trying to line up the lighthouse and the foliage in the foreground without getting in too much of the gray sky.

The photo above is one of the ones I like best.

Lighthouse with Foliage in Foreground

As I walked to another section of the stop I found I could capture the lighthouse in the background with a lot of the fall colors in the foreground. I worked to find an angle where the lighthouse stood out in the background and I could also capture the beautiful fall foliage in the foreground. Here is that shot.

High Contrast Edited Version - editied in Lightroom

When I got back to the hotel and loaded my photos into my computer, I decided since I could not eliminate the gray sky and still show the whole lighthouse, I would use the gray sky to my advantage and I put a high contrast filter on the photo. I did this editing in my Photoshop Lightroom product. This contrasted the gray sky and rock against the lighthouse and the bright yellow foliage in the foreground. The photo above is the result of that edited shot.

Help me decide--which photograph above do you like best? - vote for your favorite

I have selected three shots from my first views of the lighthouse and show them above.

1. My first view of lighthouse.

2. View with foliage in foreground.

3. High Contrast edited version.

Vote on Your Favorite

See results

Photographs of Split Rock Lighthouse - view photos from other photographers

Before we traveled to Split Rock I studied photographs of the lighthouse from other photographers. This lighthouse has been often photograhed and I wanted to see what angles other photographers used to try to capture the lighthouse.

Since we usually travel by car , I always stop at the Visitor Centers and pick up any brochures they have on lighthouses. I have found many nice photos in these brochures and I use them to help me plan my photography.

Split Rock Lighthouse (State Park, Two Harbors, MN): A Postcard Book
Split Rock Lighthouse (State Park, Two Harbors, MN): A Postcard Book

Here you will find how other photographers captured the image of the lighthouse.


Photographing Split Rock from the State Park

On our second day we entered the Split Rock state park to take photographs of the lighthouse from the campground area and to then visit the lighthouse up close. My husband left me off at the parking lot to the camping area and I made my way down the trail keeping my eyes peeled for a glimpse of the lighthouse. It didn't take long and I found a path heading to the bay and I followed it and saw a great view of the lighthouse. It is beautiful and I was delighted to photograph it from this angle.

I spent about an hour walking along the edge of the water, climbing up on rocks and trying to find the perfect shot of the lighthouse. When I first got there I didn't like the way the sun was casting shadows on the lighthouse, but after the first bit the lighting changed and I was happy with the shots I was getting. I took about 100 shots from this spot along the shore at the base of the lighthouse, but the photo below is by far my favorite.

To capture this shot, I climbed on some rocks and framed the lighthouse in the beautiful yellow colors of the fall leaves.

Split Rock - Orange Foliage

Split Rock - Orange Foliage
Split Rock - Orange Foliage

Split Rock Lighthouse Up Close

Minnesota Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse is located just north of Two Harbors, Minnesota. It was built in 1910 on a 130 foot sheer cliff on the shores of Lake Superior just 46 miles north of Duluth. I took a tour of the lighthouse and the grounds and climbed the 32 steps to the top of the lighthouse. I always find lighthouses fascinating and each one is a bit different. The lighthouse at Split Rock is on the smaller side of lighthouses I have toured, but it gets it's height from the location on the cliff.

As I toured the grounds, I again started taking photographs from various directions. When you are up close it is hard to get a great view of the lighthouse without a lot of other buildings or trees in the photos. This photo is the one that I like best from my up close visit to Split Rock. It was a little after 9 am and the sun was beginning to rise in mid sky. I like the way the clouds in the background look with the sun reflecting on the lighthouse.

Split Rock View from Lighthouse Grounds

Split Rock View from Lighthouse Grounds
Split Rock View from Lighthouse Grounds

Stop by and let me know which was your favorite photo.

Which Photo did you like best? - stop by and leave your comments

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    • ThreeQuarters2Day profile image

      Dawn Romine 

      4 years ago from Nebraska

      Love the idea of this lens showing various different edits for photos, I do this all the time and it's a good way to "blog" and test out which variation people like best.

    • ZenandChic profile image


      4 years ago

      Love these photos!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      It's a beautiful lighthouse in a gorgeous setting! I liked all your photos! The first was so well placed I enjoyed the photo itself, but then it was nice to see a closer shot to see more of the detail of the building! Good job! It looks like a fun visit.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      4 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      What a gorgeous lighthouse! I love all the ones featuring foliage in the foreground. Excellent US Travel lens.

    • Zeross4 profile image

      Renee Dixon 

      4 years ago from Kentucky

      Such beautiful photos, so mesmerizing!

    • profile image

      Lynn Klobuchar 

      4 years ago

      I probably like your first pic best. I grew up on the North Shore of Lake Superior and actually long for those grey days, with the surf crashing. Unbelievably beautiful area and your pictures are stunning. Thanks for reminding this girl from the north country of her roots!

    • mbgphoto profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Beth Granger 

      4 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      @editionh: thank you for your comments. I always appreciate another point of view.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I like the first with autumn foliage best. But I would strongly commend to remove the thin branches with leaves that come in from the right side and distrub the sea and from the left too. I would try to repeat the shot from a lower view point of with a bit more zoom in in possible to clean up the view.

      You have cropped the image to square format, but I think a rectangular frame would support the subject of the tower better.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      truly beautiful photos, really really pretty lighthouse and scenery

    • sharonbellis profile image

      Sharon Bellissimo 

      4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      These are gorgeous photos that have inspired me to get a new camera! thank you!

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 

      4 years ago from Idaho

      I love the photo of the lighthouse with the leaves making a window for you to shoot through. Beautiful photos, well done!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      This type of lens ought to be in top tier. Go figure

    • KellyFranks LM profile image

      KellyFranks LM 

      5 years ago

      Absolutely stunning. The second is definitely my favorite ... the architecture is very clear but still shows the natural surroundings. Makes me want a vacation, lol.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I always like pictures that are framed by trees so I like that one the best. But Split Rock makes a great picture any time, although I haven't actually seen it myself. I featured the Zazzle print on my Gitche Gumee lens.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      As always, beautiful photography.

    • ReviewsfromSandy profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin

      They are all keepers in my book. Beautiful photography.

    • vinodkpillai lm profile image

      vinodkpillai lm 

      5 years ago

      I liked the one framed by yellow leaves - Split Rock Lighthouse autumn

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I like lighthouse. Photography is excellent along with content. Here is my squidoo likes. Please return this favour.

    • IncomeFromHomeT profile image


      5 years ago

      First and next to last are my faves of Split Rock Lighthouse!

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 

      5 years ago from California

      I liked the very first picture in the lens. The one that the lighthouse is completely framed in the tree's branches.

    • colgrym profile image


      5 years ago

      Now I've seen the others, it's got to be Split Rock Orange Foliage. Lovely shot.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I also liked the first and the last one...

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      Split Rock Orange Foilage - by far my favorite, though I like them all.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      They're all pretty good. Very nice lens.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      5 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      I like the first and last ones the best. â¥

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I remember this lighthouse as the one with the horn that made my cry. One of my first baby sized memories. It is a beautiful building and good images.

    • Monica Ranstrom profile image

      Monica Ranstrom 

      5 years ago

      I love this lighthouse! My brother and I did a trip to the North Shore and several state parks right after we were both out of college. My fav picture that I have of this lighthouse is of the two of us standing on the rocks with the lighthouse behind us. A stranger took it for us and it turned out great! We are windblown with smiles on our faces. Great memories :) Lovely lens.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      They're all beautiful photos! What a great-looking lighthouse!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image


      5 years ago

      Breathtaking views of that gorgeous lighthouse! Congrats on your Purple Star.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      5 years ago from United States

      As always, gorgeous photos!


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