Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review of Challenges in Identifying Lighthouses from a Cruise Ship

Patos Island Lighthouse photo by mbgphoto

I love to photograph lighthouses and traveling on a cruise ship is a great way to see lots of lighthouses from the water.  When the lighthouse is near a port it is easy for me to identify the lighthouse and look up information for it online.  The challenge becomes when the ship is not near a port and I see a lighthouse in the distance.

The lighthouse above was photographed after the cruise ship had left the port of Vancouver.  We had been traveling for about 2 hours when I saw this cute little light just outside the window. I grabbed my camera and got a few photos but I had no idea where we were or the name of the lighthouse.  Now was the time to  put my detective skills to work!

Getting a Closer Look

close up of Patos Island Lighthouse photo by mbgphoto
I knew I would need to know some details on the lighthouse in order to determine the name of the lighthouse, so I zoomed in for a closer shot of the building.

The square tower and white railing on the lighthouse would be good clues as I looked at lighthouse photos.

Zooming out for Further Clues

Patos Island Lighthouse and surrounding area photo by mbgphoto

Next, I zoomed out for a long shot to see if the surroundings would give me any clues.  I had been so focused on the lighthouse at first I missed the beautiful mountain peaks in the background.  What a glorious site!  Still I wasn't sure which mountain I was viewing and at this point I wasn't sure if we were off the coast of Canada or the USA.

Doing a Bit of Research

When I got home,  I went online to try to determine the name of the lighthouse and the mountain.  Here are the steps I took to find my  answers.
  • First I posted my long shot photo on Facebook and asked friends for help.  I got various different guesses on the name of the mountain from Mt. Rainier to Mt Hood to Mt Baker.  These gave me some food for thought and starting points for my search.
  • I first tried to do a search for lighthouses off the coast south of Vancouver.  In studying the maps I had found that the ship had gone down the Inside passage from Vancouver to near Seattle before turning out to sea.  I first searched the  Canadian lighthouses and found some that looking very close to the lighthouse in my photos, but as I zoomed in on each lighthouse I found something just a bit different so I continued my search.
  • Since several people had identified the mountain as being in Washington state, I decided to search for lighthouses off the Washington coast.  Again, I found lots of lighthouses along that Inside passage but none were exactly like my lighthouse.  
  • Finally I decided to do a search of "Washington lighthouses with mountain in background."  I thought it was a long shot but then I've found most everything is available somewhere online.  In this search I was successful, someone else had posted a photo online almost identical to mine with the lighthouse and the mountain in the background.  From this photo I was able to go further and find more information on both the lighthouse and mountain.


Patos Island Lighthouse

The lighthouse I discovered is on the western tip of Patos Island.  This island is in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington.  The lighthouse was built in 1893.  

The mountain it turns out is Mt Baker in Washington which stands at 10,781.

Art from my Photographs

I enjoy creating art from my photographs.  Here is the Patos Island photo on a piece of wood wall art from Zazzle.

Patos Island Lighthouse Wood Wall Art
Patos Island Lighthouse Wood Wall Art by lighthouseenthusiast
Browse more Patos lighthouse Wood Wall Art at Zazzle


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. Excellent tips! We frequently see landmarks we can't identify when traveling and your tips would be helpful suggestions to use for any site we don't recognize. What beautiful photos too. I especially love the landscape shot that includes the mountains. I am so glad you were able to identify the location and the name of the lighthouse. I really appreciate you sharing your steps used for identification.

  2. Besides loving your beautiful photos, it was fascinating to learn about your online search to identify the lighthouse, coastline and mountain in the photo. I love doing research myself and your quest for information was so interesting to read.


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