Thursday, 29 December 2011

Stormy weather

For a change we decided to go over to Ventnor for a post-Christmas change of scene. The weather had become squally and unpleasant overnight, so I took my camera to get any interesting rough weather shots.

The Commodore Clipper was passing the island on her way across to Jersey and Guernsey so I took a few pictures of her in the stormy sea. I was using a 400mm lens and the weather was murky, with periodic sunbeams, as well as stormy, so they've not turned out particularly brilliantly. Very long telephotos are not ideal for taking pictures of ships simply because ships are large objects, so a 400mm is only useful for 'record shots' or 'emergencies', because atmospheric effects such as haze and mirages are more pronounced in the shots. Personally I'd rather use a smaller lens to take pictures of ships which are close by, as the quality is better.

Click for full-size.

There was a lone surfer in the waves, just off the Spyglass Inn. Usually there are a few surfers to be seen but today there was only this one. Makes me want to get my board out and do a bit of surfing, I haven't been surfing for ages.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Saturday, 3 December 2011

'Wightlink Bunker Blues'

It is a island pastime to bash the ferry companies but, to be fair, this is not entirely undeserved by the companies themselves, with high fares and regular cancellations of sailings due to 'operational reasons'. The Hitler 'Downfall' YouTube parodies have also been done almost to death but, thanks to a link in local media recently, I found this gem on YouTube where the Führer has a rant about Wightlink. Isle of Wight residents will find this amusing and rather apt.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

QM2 video

I finally got round to adding the short videos together and have uploaded the result onto You Tube. It's not the best (slightly shaky because I forgot my tripod and held-held the camera) and there's no sound but I'm happy with it.


Car carrier Figaro passing East Cowes, enroute to Southampton on 24th November 2011

Ship facts - Built: 2011; Flag: Sweden; GT: ?; IMO number: 9505041

Vehicle carriers aren't everyone's cup of tea, including mine. I am a big fan of modern merchant ships but there is definitely something of the 'floating brick' about car carriers.
Note the inevitable yacht getting in the way! I'm sure they do it on purpose...!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Queen Mary 2 (again)

Looking at the Southampton VTS website yesterday, I noticed that Queen Mary 2 was due to leave Southampton at 1200 today for her refit in Hamburg where her registry would also be changed from Southampton to Hamilton (Bermuda). So, I decided to put my cameras and my dog (to give her a walk at the same time) into the car and go to East Cowes to see her go past.
The ship was due to sail at 12 but, due to engine failure, she was delayed. How long this would be for, I didn't know, but I thought I'd give it to 1330 and then leave and I was about to drive off when my friend Patsy texted me to say the ship was about to depart.

Click for larger size (and better quality; these previews have been compressed).

Last look at 'Southampton' on the stern. When she comes back in a couple of weeks, it will read 'Hamilton'.
Seeing Queen Mary 2 at the docks in Southampton is one thing, seeing her on the move is quite another. Although I've seen the ship many times, she still makes you stop and look. Even some workmen downed tools to watch her go past.

And here's what she left behind, almost-surfable waves rolling into the shore, which reminds me of stories my Nan used to tell me about the first Mauretania and the havoc she caused coming up the Solent at speed (the Mauretania caused the havoc, not my Nan ;-) ). Nan lived in East Cowes and the Mauretania's wash flooded properties and knocked people off their feet every time she came past. The Mauretania was notorious and, as a result, a speed limit was introduced for vessels in the Solent.

These photos have not been sharpened; the Canon 70-200 f/4 L lens has to be one of the sharpest lenses ever made.

Here's a short piece of video I made, with my Canon 7D and 70-200mm lens. I have made several short videos and put them together in one long one. This is the last of the short pieces:

Friday, 18 November 2011

Don Quijote

Quiet day in the Solent, with just the car carrier Don Quijote and the small tanker Stolt Teal on the move.

In the top picture, left to right, are Stolt Teal, Don Quijote, Joan and Lucy Essberger.

Ships details

Don Quijote: Built 1998, 67141 gt, Singapore flag, IMO number 9138525
Stolt Teal: Built 1999, 5342 gt, Cayman Islands flag, IMO number 9199323
Joan: Built 2009, 3450 gt, Hong Kong flag, IMO number 9448877
Lucy Essberger: Built 1997, 3726 gt, Netherlands flag, IMO 9140827

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Website upgrade

I have rebuilt my website and got hosting for it. I was having a boring day yesterday afternoon and found some web-building software (Incomedia Website X5) that I bought early in 2010 and which I forgot I had. It's some real bells-and-whistles stuff which is miles better and easier to use than Dreamweaver or Frontpage, both programs I had used in the past and neither of which now work on my Windows 7 computer, and it's also got an integrated ftp upload program. So I spent several hours yesterday doing the templates and galleries and I uploaded it this morning.

Here's a sample page from one of the galleries. Each photo opens in a new pop-up window.

The domain is or you can use The Wordpress website is now closed. I hope you like it and feel free to contact me at

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Queen Mary 2 and the QE2 Mile

Took a little trip to Southampton today, for a change of scene as much as anything else. The Queen Mary 2 was in and I also thought it would be a good opportunity to photograph her with 'Southampton' on her stern as, by the time she is next here, it may well be changed to Hamilton (the change is scheduled to be done on December 1st).

Click for larger photos (pictures will open in a kind of slideshow, but there is an option to 'Show original' at the bottom left).

I went round to the Triangle car park to get the name and 'Southampton' on the stern...

Took a walk to the city centre to get a filter for my lens and passed an anchor which was originally from the QE2 and given to the city by Cunard and Dubai which is where the ship now sits idle. The anchor is on the High Street outside Holy Rood Church, which was bombed and destroyed in the Second World War and is now a memorial to merchant seamen. The road is part of the QE2 Mile, which stretches from Town Quay up to the Cenotaph.

With the anchor is a very nice plaque...both anchor and plaque are thankfully not (yet?) spray-painted by morons...

There was time for a coffee in Marks and Spencers before we headed back to the ferry. There wasn't a lot on the move and, besides, it was raining so we decided not to hang about and went back to Cowes on the 1345 Red Jet 4 sailing.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

AIS apps

I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy S Plus smartphone, to replace the - crappy - Blackberry I was using. Android phones are pretty much the same as the iPhone (indeed, Apple and Samsung have each accused the other of stealing ideas) and there are plenty of cool apps to download.
I have found a brilliant little app from, via Android Market, a free app which gives you the AIS positions of ships. If you touch the little ship symbol of the vessel you want to look at, a wedge-shaped coloured icon, you can also see the vessel's name, data, track, and, best of all, photos. Very cool. If you have an Android phone, you can get it here, or via the Market on your phone.
However, a couple of negatives are ads - well, it is free - and it does hang on occasion.
There is also an iPhone/iPad version available but, unlike the Android version, that costs a couple of quid.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

A few (small) changes

I have made a few small changes to the main website. Formerly called 'Solent Ships' it is now called 'Ship Photo' and has a new domain name I wanted to get but that was already taken (nice-looking site, although it doesn't appear to have been updated for a bit). I can't believe that ship-photo was still up for grabs, bearing in mind the amount of nautical websites out there.
I have also got the domain name, having realised that is pretty similar to some other domains out there (shipfoto and shipphotos), even if mine has a hypen in it. Both will work just fine, use whichever one suits.
For now, the url will also work but I might eventually get full hosting when I have some spare cash.

You might notice the blog title has changed to Ship-Photo, to match the website. I thought I'd also do away with the boring dark colours in favour of easier-to-read (less hard on the eyes) black text on a light blue-white background, especially as it's November and the weather is dreary enough, without looking at a dark website! The main website will also get a makeover at some point.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A post!

I have not kept this updated for a while, so I expect my reader has probably gone elsewhere! Since the trip on Vision of the Seas in late April/early May, I have not actually been anywhere or done very much. My other interests and my seasonal job have kept me busy, as has rather a feeling of 'meh' towards the whole thing! Not to mention a ripped knee cartilage and a broken ankle (two separate accidents!), which also put a crimp in a lot of activities over the summer.
I did, however, manage a few photos during a couple of trips over to the mainland to visit my sister. One was of Queen Mary 2, taken through the front window of the car ferry. I was stuck down below decks, thanks to being on crutches and the lift not going as far as the outer deck. The picture didn't turn out too badly, despite having been taken through the grubby windows of the ferry.

Click on each photo for larger version.

Last week it was announced that Cunard would be re-registering their ships in Bermuda, in order to cash in on 'the market for weddings at sea' (to cut costs, more like). It's a shame that the ships will soon have 'Hamilton' on their sterns and not 'Southampton'. Cunard wasn't really that 'British' anymore but this has removed that last vestige of Britishness - and it was always nice to see 'Southampton' on their sterns. Can't say I am surprised, really, P&O did the same thing a while back and it was a matter of time before Cunard did the same but that doesn't alter the fact that it is a bit disappointing.

I went over to the mainland again in early September, this time for my sister's wedding (third time lucky?!), as (bad) luck would have it I was on crutches again, this time due to a fractured ankle after tripping in a pothole. Hopefully I have now used up all my bad luck.
Albatros was in, I'd never seen this one before so, after getting an unsatisfactory shot from the car deck (upper picture) with my 400mm lens which was already on the camera and I didn't have time to change it, I got my aunt to drive round to Mayflower Park, so I could get a better photo with the 70-200mm lens. Mayflower Park was being prepared for the Boat Show, so trucks and boats were in the way and we couldn't go right to the end in the car.

Photography while balancing on crutches is not the easiest thing to do but, at least the pictures came out reasonably well.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Vision of the Seas - Part 4

Monday night was the final night of the cruise and we'd be docking at Copenhagen at 0700 the following morning, 3rd May.
During the evening we entered the Skagerrak and we'd spend the night cruising down the Kattegat to Copenhagen. I went onto the Boat Deck and could see lights on the coast of Norway (probably the town of Kristiansand) off the port side, and those of Denmark on the starboard side.

Norwegian coast and light pollution
An atrocious photo of the map of our route through the North Sea, the Skaggerak and down the Kattegat.
I took a few more shots around the ship

Illuminated deck plan model. One of these was located next to the elevators on each deck
Boat deck on the port side. Apologies for quality of photo but I had to resort to ISO 12800 and use a fair bit of noise reduction
A cute little waterfall arrangement under the stairs on Deck 4
We arrived in Copenhagen early the next morning, docking at 0700. All the following pics were taken with my little Samsung compact, rather than the SLR.

Arrival at Copenhagen

All to soon the sad moment to leave the ship came. When it came to it, I didn't really want to leave, Vision of the Seas is a lovely ship, one of the last of the nice looking passenger ships before the floating blocks of flats that have come along since she was built in 1998.
As Patsy has 'Platinum' status, we got priority disembarkation and we got the chance to take pictures of the ship at the dockside. We left our bags with a Royal Caribbean shoreside employee and got some pictures of her alongside. Unfortunately, we couldn't get bow shots as she'd dock stern in, but made do with stern shots instead. It has to be said that, as far as modern ships go, Vision also has a nice arse...Patsy says the ship's stern reminds her of a duck's backside and so nicknames her 'Ducky', but I can't see it myself.

Alongside at Copenhagen
We took a taxi into Copenhagen town centre, as we were booked at a hotel next to the railway station, in order to get to the airport quickly the next morning. The original plan had been to fly straight back to the UK, but we decided to have a look round the city instead; however, that plan came to nothing in the end as the weather turned nasty and it poured with rain for the rest of the day.  Also, Denmark proved incredibly expensive. The taxi ride from the docks came to the equivalent of £20, a snack at lunch was the same. As I only had 300 Kroner and I don't think Patsy had a large amount either, doing a lot wasn't practical.
We had gone as far as Tivoli Gardens, but we didn't go in because they wanted 75 DKK for the privelige so, especially as it began to rain, we headed back and watched Fawlty Towers, Allo Allo (both with Danish subtitles) and some assorted rubbish on the tv for the rest of the day. It was one of the most boring afternoons and evenings of my life!

The Axelborg 

Not at 75 DKK
The next morning we left early and caught the train to the airport for our 0745 flight to London Heathrow. The plane's route almost matched the ship's route but instead of 4 days, we took less than two hours to arrive back in England. After the usual formalities (only the second time I'd needed my passport the entire trip was at the UK Border - the first time was at check in at Southampton. At Amsterdam and Copenhagen, formalities were non-existent) we had a 2.5 hour wait for our National Express coach back to Southampton, where we arrived at the Central Coach Station just before 1415.
Patsy and Kevin, who'd come round to meet her, headed back to Dibden on their bus, while I had a short wait for the free bus to Town Quay.
The 1415 Red Jet was cancelled, due to some saga or other with technical difficulties (the fast ferries of RF and Wightlink always seem to have some issues) so I had a bit of a wait for the next one at 1445, so I took the opportunity to walk along Town Quay, get the SLR out and take some pics of Independence of the Seas alongside Berth 101. Typically a Red Funnel car ferry got in the way, as Red Funnel ships always do, so I had to wait until it was out of the frame.

Independence of the Seas at Southampton. Click for larger photo

And that was that. The trip went quickly, as all good trips always do. Would I go on a cruise again? Yes, probably, but I am not in a hurry to do so. I like ships (of course), I like the sea, I like being on the sea and it's something different. I wouldn't want to do it all the time though, and I don't think I'd want to go for more than a week or even 10 days, mostly because it gets expensive and because there are people around all the time (I like to get away from people, something almost impossible to do aboard a ship). I have to admit that I prefer backpacking trips to the USA, Australia, Asia and South America.
The reason for the expense is that you don't pay for things on board at the time of purchase, you have a card that they swipe every time you get a drink in a bar, or an item in the shop and, if you're not careful, it mounts up. On one visit to the shop, I managed to rack up a bill for $94 and when I added up all my costs for drinks, etc, later the bill came to far more than I intended to spend. If you could pay by cash or debit card, life would be simpler, rather than getting an unexpectedly massive bill at the end.

A round trip, Southampton back to Southampton, would be better. It saves the hassle of having to fly one way. If I did another cruise one day, I would take one that went from Southampton and back to Southampton. But, despite minor aggravations such as one or two idiot passengers and the formal night, I enjoyed it.
As for Vision of the Seas herself, she's a poppet of a ship with a lovely happy crew and I hope she comes to Southampton again sometime in the not-too-distant future. She gets 4.5/5 from me, not that I know anything! The missing 0.5 was for the food being slightly hit-and-miss, especially the steak being practically inedible.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Vision of the Seas - Part 3: Amsterdam (continued)

The following morning, Sunday 1st May, was hot and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky. I got up late, partly due to feeling lazy and partly due to the inside cabin being as black as a coal cellar at midnight and consequently not having a clue whether it was day or night.
Cunard's Queen Elizabeth was due to dock in the cruise terminal at 1300, so I went on deck and waited for her to arrive. Patsy was already there but the ship was late so, instead of turning round in the river, she was put in behind us bow forward. As Queen Elizabeth approached, people poured out on deck to watch her approach and be stuffed into her dock. It was a tight fit, between ourselves and some Rhine river boats opposite, and we were half expecting a prang, but the pilot, captain and tugs all knew what they were doing and QE went into her berth with (little!) room to spare. It was around 3pm before she was alongside.

Click on photos to see larger ones.

Not much room!

Very little space between the QE, us and the river boats opposite. There was actually less room than it appears in this photo.

We were scheduled to depart at 5pm but were delayed slightly because some people were late back to the ship, having got lost in Amsterdam. They'd phoned the ship to tell them they were late, luckily for them they had the number.
While we were waiting to leave, a very loud ship's horn sounded from somewhere. It sounded like a Tyfon horn, of the sort QE2 had and similar to Vision's own horn. It wasn't us and, from the direction of the sound, it wasn't Queen Elizabeth either. The small mystery was solved as a sailing ship passed us, with a ship's horn mounted on deck and a bloke with ear defenders on pressing the button at regular intervals.

Picking up the tug (Svitzer Medemblik)

Our escort. This ensured that small boats and other vessels didn't get in the way. We had the pleasure of seeing the crew give a WAFI and a small open boat a right telling off for coming too close.

Local ferry

Rochdale One again. This rather cute ship is a former Soviet cruise ship, now a static accommodation ship.
Tanker Cape Bruny
Through IJmuiden locks, with the gate closing behind us as we head back out into the North Sea
Next stop, the final stop, would be Copenhagen in Denmark, over 500 nautical miles from Amsterdam and it would take two nights and a day to get there, at 17 knots.
The night we left Amsterdam I tried to get some interior views of the ship, including a couple of very nice models in the Crown and Anchor Study on Deck 8. One model was of the SS United States (I think I heard somewhere that RCI own, or once owned, the United States) while the other was of Vision of the Seas. I used ISO 'stupid hundred' (my camera ISO goes up to 6400, with a High setting of ISO 12800) to get the photos because the models were in glass cases and flash would just reflect off the glass, so I used ISO 6400 rather than 12800 which is very much for 'emergencies only'. The Canon 7D handles noise very well, and the photos only needed a little noise reduction.

SS United States

Vision of the Seas

At the centre of the ship, several decks high, there is the Centrum. At the bottom of this, on Deck 4, is an area where there is usually a band playing in the evenings. On the nights we were there, one of the entertainers was an Elvis impersonator and he actually wasn't bad. The lighting was neon whose colours changed from green to blue, pink and back again and the effect was quite pretty.

Looking down at the entertainers. This one was an Elvis impersonator.
There was a huge sculpture hanging down through the Centrum, I am not sure exactly what it was supposed to be but, to me, it looked like a dinosaur skeleton of some sort, or HR Giger's 'Alien', from the Sci-fi horror film of the same name.

The 'skeleton' sculpture
The next day, Monday 2nd April, we were at sea and cruising along the coast of Denmark but for me another pressing concern had arisen - Saints were away at Plymouth this afternoon. Win and automatic promotion was all but assured, we'd be three points clear of Huddersfield Town, with one game to go and a massive, insurmountable, goal difference of 18 in our favour. Frustratingly, the ship's satellite system went down, so there was no internet and no mobile phones meaning I was unable to find out the score. It really was annoying but there was nothing that we could do until we came within range of Denmark's mobile phone networks and could get a signal.
Patsy was eventually able to get a signal from the Telenor system of Denmark and look at the BBC Sports website. Full time result: Plymouth 1, Saints 3. YES! WE ARE GOING UP! Saints are effectively promoted back to the Championship, barring a highly unlikely turnaround in goal difference in the final game this coming Saturday (May 7th). It'd need Huddersfield to win 18-0 and us to lose, or them to win 8-0 and us lose 10-0 or something equally daft. Saints' final game this season is against Walsall at St. Mary's. Unfortunately I can't go as it's a sell-out (should have got a ticket before I left!). Hopefully, we'll go out of L1 in style by beating Walsall and by going up on points difference rather than goal difference if Huddersfield win their game. It may send Walsall down if Dagenham and Redbridge win, but I don't care about that, it'll be good to get out of this crap league at last.

One night of the cruise was left, we'd dock at Copenhagen at 0700 on Tuesday May 3rd and get off the ship at 0800. I'll put that in the next - and final - part.