The Lure of Lighthouses & Dancing Waves Photographs by Dan Merkel

COST: [Free with Museum Admission]
Organizer: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Continuing its celebration of coastal living, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM) presents The Lure of Lighthouses & Dancing Waves, an exhibit featuring more than 35 photographs of lighthouses and waves by the renowned and Emmy Award-winning surfing photographer and videographer Dan Merkel. The lighthouse photographs include images of lighthouses from near and far—from Cape Elizabeth and Cape Hatteras on the East Coast and Point Loma and Point Pinos on the West to Portugal and Australia.  The images are accompanied by Dan’s breath-taking photos capturing waves throughout the world. Beginning on Thursday, January 26, the exhibit will be on view in SBMM’s Gallery and Munger Theater through August 27, 2023.

Legendary water and surfing photographer and videographer Dan Merkel has recently returned to still photography, often shooting panoramic landscape images, mostly travel shots and often taken near the ocean. Speaking of his work and how this exhibit came to be, SBMM curator Emily Falke said, “I first met Dan Merkel when he joined Shaun Tomson for an event at the museum and provided a few of his remarkable photos for sale.  I was particularly interested in seeing his U.S. lighthouse photos as SBMM is the home of the Pt. Conception Lighthouse lens and has a comprehensive exhibit about the lens, lighthouses, and lighthouse keepers. I looked at panoramic images of Dan’s lighthouses and was mesmerized by how mood provoking the images are.  Dan waits for the exact moment to shoot the photo.  The lighting is spot on, and he is looking to evoke emotion of a ‘place’ in the world of lighthouses. He waits for just the right light,  formation of clouds during  predawn or sunset.”

About Dan Merkel

Dan Merkel began his career just taking pictures of his friends. When he was hired to work for various surfing magazines in the early 70s, surfing was just being recognized as a sport with international competitions and professional surfers, such as Shaun Tomson. Being an experienced surfer himself, Merkel was able to get in the middle of the action with his cameras, which gave his images more immediacy and energy. In order to do this, Merkel designed much of his own waterproof housing that protected his equipment and allowed him to follow focus. Beginning in the late 1970s and continuing through the 1990s, Merkel switched his focus to commercial cinematography and became an Emmy-winning filmmaker working on classic surfing films including Free Ride, Big Wednesday, Endless Summer II, and many others.

According to 1977 World Surfing Champion Shaun Tomson, whose recent book The Surfer and the Sage featured Dan’s images, “Dan Merkel is one of the surfing world’s most acclaimed and courageous action photographers. Combining a unique eye for composition in exceptionally dangerous situations, Dan captured some of the most intense moments of his subjects’ lives, artistically freezing and sharing each in the maelstrom of one thousandth of a second increments. Dan reveled in capturing beauty in the impact zone, the most violent area in the ocean. Whether he is doing still photography, music videos, commercials or commercial films, Merkel brings the same level of perfectionism and ambition that has propelled him throughout his long career.”

Merkel licenses his images through AFrame Media and markets his prints  online at Many of his images also appear on his Facebook page at:

The Lure of Lighthouses and Dancing Waves exhibit is made possible thanks to the generous support of Frederic and Nancy Golden, George H. and Olive J. Griffiths Charitable Foundation, Mimi Michaelis, The June G. Outhwaite Charitable Trust, Thomas and Charmaine Rogers, Shaun and Carla Tomson,  and Wood-Claeyssens Foundation. Following this exhibition, The Lure of Lighthouses & Dancing Waves, will become part of SBMM’s permanent collection and available on loan to other museums.

About SBMM

Founded in 2000 inside the harbor’s historic Waterfront Center Building (formerly the Naval Reserve Building), the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum creates exhibits and hands-on, educational experiences that celebrate more than 13,000 years of maritime history in our region—from Chumash culture to today’s surfing scenes and environmental movements. Nearly 8,000 square feet of gallery space showcase special presentations and changing displays culled from the museum’s artifact collection, all dedicated to instilling love and respect for our Santa Barbara Channel, for the people who make their living on its waters, and for the abundant marine life that calls these waters home.

SBMM is located at 113 Harbor Way, Suite 190, Santa Barbara, CA 93109.  Visit or call (805) 962-8404 for details.

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