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Stratford Fog, Connecticut Lighthouse

photograph by David Zapata

Adelante Artists Gallery © All rights reserved.

Point Judith Rhode Island Lighthouse, 

photograph by David Zapata

David Zapatka grew up in Rhode Island and picked up his first camera at age 13. An astute yearbook advisor noticed him carrying the camera in school and asked if he’d shoot pictures instead of sitting in study halls, essentially giving him his first press pass, and from then on he was hooked.

At Rhode Island College he studied mass communications, discovering film and video during his junior year. In his senior year he was hired full time as a news cameraman at WJAR, the Providence NBC affiliate. Zapatka spent ten years shooting local news in the Providence market until he began his long career as a network freelance cameraman and director of photography. His work regularly appears on network news and sports programs working for ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, HBO, and CNN. His assignments have brought him to 49 states and over 30 countries. He’s covered six Superbowls and for the past 17 years has covered the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament; he’s worked at four winter Olympic Games, winning two National Sports Emmy awards for his contributions to the NBC coverage of the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010.

In October 2103 he began what has become the “Stars & Lights” lighthouse project. To date he’s shot 15 of the 16 licensed and operating Rhode Island lighthouses under the stars and he recently began shooting neighboring state’s lights as well.

Five of his recent works were chosen to be a part of the “Tales From the Sea” collection that was held in March 2015 at the National Lighthouse Museum on Staten Island, NY.

Zapatka will have a solo show in August 2105 at the HeartSpace Gallery on Block Island.

He lives in North Kingstown, Rhode Island with his wife Lisa.



David Zapatka at work



When one seeks photographs of lighthouses there are usually hundreds if not thousands to choose from of almost every one in the country. Most, if not all are daytime images. Seldom do you find photographs of lighthouses from when they did their most important work—at night. With the advent of more sensitive image sensors developed over the past several years, newer cameras now allow for the emerging genre of nighttime photography.

In October 2013 the first of what has now become a series of thirty lighthouse photographs taken under specific conditions was shot at the Dutch Island Lighthouse in Rhode Island. Under clear and darkest of dark nights during monthly new moon phase,

I’ve since been able to capture New England lighthouses in a way not widely before seen. Through extensive research and with cooperation from Coast Guard authorities, local harbormasters and private landowners, in the past eighteen months the series called “Stars and Lights” has expanded from Rhode Island lighthouses to those throughout Southern New England.

I'm currently researching Connecticut's Long Island Sound lighthouses and will begin shooting those in the coming months as well as the remaining eastern Massachusetts lights to Provincetown.

Since the start of this project several local lighthouses have been turned off and it is my intent to venture further throughout the region and beyond to capture more before many of these iconic structures are darkened.

This project is much more complicated than simply arriving at a location and snapping a picture. One can view plenty of daytime photographs to get a more defined idea of the terrain, but once the sun sets, the area takes on a different look. Conditions one might not consider while shooting during the day include the amount of ambient light from nearby sources, i.e, streetlights; neighboring security cameras; industrial light pollution; light pollution from nearby cities.

Another compounding factor in shooting lighthouses is whether the lighthouse is land-based or water-based. For the former, gaining proper access to the property is paramount as the photography will take place in the middle of the night and arousing suspicious neighbors might be detrimental.

As for the latter, I’ve had a special twenty-foot aluminum tripod built to be able to shoot water-based lighthouses. Most were typically placed near shallow waters and prior to heading to these areas extensive research must be done for safety, not only for the boat but for personal safety as well. Additional compounding factors for water-based lighthouse photography are tides, wind, and sea conditions.

This project has taken on a life of its own most who view the work are intrigued by the serenity of the images taken in the middle of the night with nothing around but a wonderful setting, a beautiful lighthouse, and billions of stars. It’s difficult work and the motivation is to capture as many working lighthouses that we have left before we lose too many more.