Morley-Erickson said she had no idea what he was planning, just that he was doing some photography in P.E.I. while staying with relatives. This was a big step for him, she said, his first excursion on his own, and it was a major one.
People with Asperger’s often lack social and communication skills, both which permeated Erickson’s life, said his mom, at least until he puts the camera up to his eye. Being a photographer and taking on the lighthouse project forced him to talk to people, to ask for what he needed, even if it meant walking up to a stranger’s door and requesting permission to access a lighthouse from their property.
Researching the 63 lighthouses and range lights on the island, 35 which are still active for navigation, Erickson set out a plan to visit two a day at both sunrise and sunset, knowing he couldn’t do them all. He was looking for dramatic lighting but it also meant he had only moments before the sun either sunk completely or was fully risen.
Erickson also had to be cognizant of the tide schedule for some remote lighthouses, so he wouldn’t be caught cut off from the mainland.
“Sometimes I’d be out at 12 a.m., 1 a.m.,” he said.
He calls the lighthouses “magical” places of stories and history, tall tales and, of course, hauntings.
Some were decrepit, mere shadows of their former glory. Others were beautifully restored, such as the 1875 West Point Lighthouse. At just over 20 metres high, the historic building also houses a museum, country inn, restaurant and craft shop.
Erickson was looking for different lighting textures cast by the sun and moon, shadows cast at night, and he was not afraid to use unorthodox methods such as walking into the ocean in hip-waders and placing the lower part of the camera in the ocean, angling upward to get a unique perspective. He has one photo that he shot from atop his car. What looks like calm water at the bottom of the photo is actually his car hood.
Erickson captured 1,250 photos he then sifted through to find 120 of the best shots. Twelve were used for the calendar. He also had a 1,000-piece puzzle and a blanket made using his images. Then, earlier this year, he was thrilled to learn three of his lighthouse photos were accepted, along with a 600-word article about his P.E.I. photo adventure, by Reader’s Digest Our Canada magazine. The feature will run in July. He is also slowly building the number of followers on his Instagram account, Keenfocus2017.
When not behind a camera, Erickson runs a renovation business with a partner and works in pond design and building at St. Jacobs Country Gardens. He also restores a kind of motorcycle known as Café racers, lightweight bikes built for speed and handling, not comfort. The sport started in 1960s Britain when the bikes would be used to race between “cafés,” a euphemism for pubs.
Erickson plans to return to P.E.I. this summer to shoot more photos, but this time he will have to deal with hordes of tourists and homeowners who might not agree to let him trespass. He’s ready to face them all.
Morley-Erickson said her son has exceeded expectations, given all his challenges, and he has taught them all a life lesson.
“Life is like a camera,” she said. “You learn to focus on what’s important.”
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