Plum Beach Lighthouse president and North Kingstown resident David Zapatka will soon be featured on NBC’s Today Show highlighting his lighthouse night photography project, USA Stars & Lights. On Wednesday, June 22, he sat for a taped interview with the show’s Hoda Kotb at the Fire Island Lighthouse Lens Museum on Long Island. For the last 9 years, Zapatka has been photographing lighthouses in a way seldom seen: at night and under the stars.
Zapatka started his project in 2013 with a simple night study of the Dutch island Lighthouse in Jamestown on Narragansett Bay. Thus began the odyssey, capturing to date 191 lighthouses in nineteen states. In 2018, the project was adopted by the United States Lighthouse Society where all the images will eventually be virtually displayed and publicly available.
Zapatka is a freelance network television camera veteran of 40 years, a 2021 Silver Circle inductee into the New England Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and an an eight-time Emmy winner. He’s published two books of his lighthouse adventures, USA Stars & Lights: Portraits from the Dark and Stars & Lights: Darkest of Dark Nights. He’s been the president of the Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse in North Kingstown since 2004, and is credited with developing the Rhode Island lighthouse license plate in 2010, raising more than $300,000 for the historic lighthouse.
The Today Show took an interest in the project in the summer of 2021 when Zapatka was photographing the Burnt Island Light Station in Boothbay Harbor, Maine for USA Stars & Lights. It was about to celebrate its 200th anniversary and was seeking national press coverage. Zapatka reached out to Today Show producer Robin Sindler on behalf of the lighthouse, and their discussion turned to his photography. Last month, Sindler proposed the story to Kotb, leading to last week’s interview. While there is yet no announced date for the story to air, Sindler plans on having it ready for the end of July.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org