Saturday, 30 June 2012

Not much

The rotten summer continues, with no sign of an improvement through July and, unfortunately, Tuesday, the day of the P&O Grand Event, looks as if it will be affected to a greater or lesser extent, by rain. It would be nice if once in a while an event in this country wasn't buggered up by our crap climate. So far the Queen's Jubilee, the Cunard Jubilee event and the viewing of the Transit of Venus have all been ruined by rain and/or gales. Infuriating!

Anyway, I was in East Cowes yesterday, for work, and paid a visit to the Esplanade to try out my new lens. The sun did actually make a brief guest appearance at one point, before vanishing just as quickly. There wasn't much about, apart from some random WAFIs and Red Funnel ferries. A check of Marinetraffic AIS on my phone showed nothing of note on the move, so I contented myself with pics of the Red Osprey (which had been involved in some drama the previous day, when an oven fire broke out on board and was put out by the crew) and the schooner Eleanora E.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

New lens

For ages I have been using Canon 18-135mm, 70-200mm f/4 L and 400mm f/5.6 L lenses but having nothing to fill the 200mm to 400mm gap did become a bit of a handicap at times. I was using a 1.4x Canon teleconverter on the 70-200 f/4 lens but the results, while not bad, weren't as good as those achieved using just the bare lens.
I'd been considering a longer zoom lens for a while and, although I already have a 400mm telephoto, I decided to get a Canon 100-400mm L IS zoom, which arrived this morning. That way, I have the 18-300mm range covered, with both my lenses, plus 301-400mm whenever needed. I am keeping the 400mm, simply because a prime is always sharper than the equivalent focal length on a zoom lens, plus the AF is faster; I do a lot of bird photography and it is the best lightweight birding lens there is, but if I find myself using the zoom at 400mm all the time, then I'll have to consider offloading the prime.

Here are a few pics, taken today at Seaview. The summer continues to disappoint and today was grey, misty, humid and thoroughly depressing. The murk washes all colour and contrast out of pictures and makes processing them an annoying challenge. That apart, I am pleased with the lens and it also makes my camera bag a couple of pounds lighter!

As usual, click for largest and better quality


NYK Vega
All being well, my next post will be of the P&O Big Event in Southampton next Tuesday, 3rd July - will it please actually be summery for a change!

Monday, 18 June 2012

A reminder...

A Greater Black-backed Gull, with the tanker Bodil Knutsen in the background, serves as a reminder that as a species we share our planet with other animals and plants - beings that deserve our respect and have every right to be here as much as we do. We tend to forget that fact, with our rampantly-growing population and our 'progress', all of which is detrimental to the other beings whose planet this also is.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


A few changes to the main website might be on the cards. I'd been using Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution, version 8, to build the site and also my bird photo site. This is fairly nice software and not expensive either but I've discovered that, as the sites grow, there are a couple of nasty bugs apparent not least of which the software has a very annoying tendency to lose files during each update, meaning that the affected pages need to have the photos added to them again and be re-uploaded!

I have had to do this several times to both websites just recently so, as it is incredibly frustrating, time-wasting and I haven't got the patience to keep fixing it (I have had to repair one of the photo albums FIVE times), I have caved in and bought a copy of Adobe Dreamweaver CS6 from Amazon in the hope that, while it won't be necessarily easier to use (from past experience I know it won't!), it won't do stupid things such as lose my files! I had a copy of Dreamweaver which will not work on my current Windows 7 computer but as this software dates from 2003, when it was published by Macromedia, it is now prehistoric in computing terms. Adobe products are expensive - too expensive really, which is one reason why I use PS Elements for tweaking my photos* rather than the full Photoshop, which costs an eye-watering £604 on Amazon! - but if they work then it's money well spent.

I am hoping I can use the existing template and go from there, if not then the site will soon have a new look.

*I know Photoshop, whether it's Elements or CS, is considered by some to be somehow 'impure' or 'cheating' - but it, or other photo software, is invaluable to bring out the best in photos. It is not cheating to straighten out a wonky horizon, improve contrast, remove sensor dust (an occupational hazard of using DSLRs) from the photo or to sharpen a little, which is all I do and why I only need Elements.

Friday, 15 June 2012


The small German cruise ship Europa was visiting Cowes today. In scenes reminiscent of the past, when some foreign liners (e.g. Hapag's Vaterland, French Line's Normandie, etc) would anchor at Cowes rather than navigate up to Southampton, the Hapag Lloyd ships always call at Cowes rather than Southampton or Portsmouth - I don't know whether the passengers do visit Cowes, which is a lovely town to spend half a day in, or whether they go down to Portsmouth or up to Southampton itself. Europa was actually anchored slightly to the east of East Cowes although not as far out as Alpha.
It's interesting that Hapag Lloyd cruise ship visits always coincide with bad weather - coincidence or just our crap climate?!

As usual, click for largest and best quality

Europa anchored at Cowes (East Cowes)

The car carrier Florida Highway was on her way out of Southampton

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Southampton 9th June 2012

The weather has returned to being utter garbage (some bloody spring and summer this is) but yesterday, Saturday 9th June, was not too bad with a mix of sunshine and partial overcast. It was also pleasantly warm. It was my younger nephew's birthday yesterday so myself and my aunt went to Christchurch and then Newbury for two (two! Kids are spoiled these days) parties.

As usual I went via Southampton - and it was actually surprisingly easy to get my car booked on the ferry only the evening before, considering it was the end of half term and the ferry schedule had been decimated by storms the previous day - and the docks were reasonably busy with four cruise ships and three car carriers in. The cruise ships were Oriana, Azura, Celebrity Eclipse and Grand Princess, while the car carriers were Tamerlane, Maersk Wave and Grand Dahlia. Fawley Oil Terminal was also busyish, with three tankers - Sallie Knutsen, Handytankers Miracle (cracking name) and Patea.

As usual, click on each picture for the largest version and better quality (the previews are compressed)

Fawley tugs - Phenix, Apex and Vortex


Southampton tugs, including new arrival Svitzer Ferriby, which replaced Svitzer Madeleine, which has gone to Immingham

Oriana - horrible shot, right into the sun.
We were on the 1915 ferry back to East Cowes. Jessica B was arriving, while Azura was still in the Ocean Terminal. Looking at the Southampton VTS website on my phone, Azura was scheduled to sail at 1915 but appeared to be delayed. It appeared that the car carrier Maersk Wave was the reason, as she was about to depart.

Jessica B


Maersk Wave

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Three Queens

The three current Cunard 'Queen' ships, Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, are in Southampton today. My friend Patsy and a Facebook acquaintance and QM2 fanatic, Rob, are sailing aboard Queen Mary 2 this evening and another friend, Andrew Cooke, is aboard one of the pleasure vessels witnessing the arrivals and departures. I was planning to be in Southampton to see the festivities, which are to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee and were scheduled to include a Red Arrows display and fireworks, before the ships depart at the odd hour of 11pm.
I said 'planning' as I actually didn't make it in the end, thanks to a combination of being sick with fevers and chills all night and the weather being - let's face it - utter shite.
The rubbish weather has led to the Red Arrows being cancelled but at least the firework display will still go ahead.

You can check it out on Cunard web cams here.

The event is being billed as 'unique' and, from the perspective of the Queen's Jubilee it is. But it's not entirely unique. Three Queen ships have been together in Southampton before, in April 2008 when Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth 2 were in together, and all three current Queens will be back in Southampton together on July 13th - which happens to be a Friday (eek). Hopefully, the weather won't be as vile.

Friday, 1 June 2012


The Parkbury Hotel in Sandown looks like a normal large Victorian building from the outside and much the same as all the other myriad hotels in the area. Go inside into Reception, however, and you see something that is not the normal decor of a hotel reception area - lots of lovely wooden panelling which is from the old Cunard liner Aquitania which went to the breakers in 1950, this wood subsequently finding its way into the hotel. The hotel also has an 'Aquitania Bar', which also gives a clue as to the wood's origins.

Apparently it takes days to polish that lot. I can well believe it - the photos only show a fraction of what's there.

Sorry for the quality of the pictures, these were taken on my mobile phone's camera which doesn't do well in low light situations.