Saturday, 23 March 2013

Spring cancelled

What the bloody hell has happened to spring?? This grey, cold, damp gloom is more reminiscent of January than late March. It's soul destroying, depressing and downright unpleasant. Early spring can be variable but this is just horrific; the sky is grey, it's cold, the trees look dead, birds aren't singing, flowers aren't out, apart from snowdrops and a few sad-looking daffodils, and the light levels are atrocious. The only bright spot is that we haven't got any more snow down here (yet) just biblical amounts of rain and sleet, leaden skies and temperatures in single digits Celsius. I sincerely hope we get a decent summer after this...we certainly deserve one, particularly after last year's dismal effort.

I decided, despite the atrocious weather, to go over to Southampton to see the new AIDAstella which was making her first call at the port. I got the 1030 car ferry across, that decision influenced by the fact that AIDAstella was starboard side to in berth 46, therefore facing outwards, and would make a good photo from the ferry. I also wanted to avoid Newport traffic and the chaos brought by the ongoing gas main work.

CMA CGM Musca was on her way in, passing Cowes as I boarded the ferry but, in the murk, it wasn't worth getting the camera out. One that got away. But at least the sodding rain had finally stopped.

Braving the elements I went on deck as we approached Fawley. A few more hardy souls, most with shivering dogs in tow, were on deck, as was another ship photographer.
I am not overly happy with the processing on these, but it was challenging because of the dark conditions.

There was a dead bee on deck, probably a victim of the vile weather. I wonder how many more tiny tragedies there are, thanks to the cold and wet early spring?

The laid up container ship Qingdao Tower was still at berth 40 and she's expected to be there another few weeks to months.

And here is the 'star' of today's show, AIDAstella, which is on her maiden voyage. It's a shame the weather wasn't better for her (and me!) but, despite that, she still added a splash of colour (and a dodgy paint job - those eyes and lips) to the docks, brightening up the scene somewhat.

I went round to Mayflower Park to photograph general cargo ship Sudkap which was at berth 101.

Back to the ferry and home, via the city centre for food and to look at the new 'Oceans' shop which has opened. They sell a range of nautical (liner-related) items and also have some nice models on display.

Car carrier Grand Phoenix was also in port today.

Jaynee-W was the only ship on the move as we got back to the Solent, apart from Energy Champion but she was too far away.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

CMA CGM Titan and Suzuka Express

Last week, I offloaded my 7D and a load of surplus lenses, plus some astronomical equipment which was also surplus to requirements, part exchanging the lot for a Canon 6D full frame DSLR and 24-105mm L-series zoom. I did keep my 100-400mm zoom, of course, but that was the only survivor. That lot covered the cost of the new stuff - just! - and, as the 6D is a full-frame camera, it should mean a bit less changing of lenses and with an increase in image quality over the 7D. Another factor in my decision to change was the high ISO performance of the 6D - even ISO 25600 is usable.

Initially our cats and dogs were (unwilling) subjects - and I took a photo of Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS the other evening - but today I got to test it out on ships. Container ship CMA CGM Titan and car carrier Suzuka Express were on their way into Southampton so, dodging the showers and the horrendous Newport traffic (British Gas have got no less than two main roads into and out of the town up for gas main replacement...coupled with a joke of a one-way system and more traffic lights than necessary, it's causing even worse congestion than usual), I went to Cowes at lunchtime to photograph them.

Ships' details:
CMA CGM Titan - IMO: 9399222, built: 2011, 131332 gt, flag: Malta
Suzuka Express - IMO: 9448073, built: 2010, 43810 gt, flag: Philippines

The files are much nicer and cleaner than those of the 7D. With that camera, there was noise even at low ISOs although that was easily dealt with using noise reduction software but with the 6D there is no noise whatsoever, unless you go to very high ISOs indeed (like the aforementioned 25600 ISO). Post-processing is a little more challenging than it was for the 7D files and I have done hardly anything to these files, just a shadows/highlights tweak and resize for the web. I think I need to expose to the right a smidge more than I did with the 7D.
There are two downsides to the new toy, however - no grid in the viewfinder which means even more wonky horizons need to be straightened, and it uses SD/SDHC cards, meaning my CF cards are now redundant, but at least it shares the same batteries as the 7D, so I kept one back as a spare.

Annie at 25600 ISO - with NO noise reduction. No, I haven't mistyped it, it really is 25600 ISO.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Odds and ends

A neighbour of a good friend of mine died recently and, as co-executor of his will, my friend, knowing of my interest in ships, asked me if I'd be interested in some books and other bits and pieces as the chap who passed away, John, had been hotel manager on the QE2 for a number of years (he also worked on many other Cunard ships, such as Franconia and Queen Mary) and had amassed a large collection of nautical books and ephemera.

Among the books were a number of copies of ones I had years ago and had sold over the years. As I regretted some of the departures I replaced those as well as found some that I had always wanted to read, but never got round to, such as the autobiographies of Captains Harry Grattidge (Captain of the Queens) and Geoffrey Marr (The Queens and I), as well as Captain Ron Warwick's book on QE2. Most of the books are Cunard-related but there were some others, covering ships such as the Norway and White Star's famous Olympic-class of 1911 (yes, including that unsinkable one that sank on her maiden voyage) plus John Maxtone-Graham's Crossing and Cruising and Liners to the Sun, which are in the same series as his classic The Only Way To Cross. I have The Only Way to Cross but have never read the other two, so that's something to look forward to.

Here are the other odds and ends:

A fridge magnet, destined to join the myriads of others covering the white goods in the kitchen. I don't think it's official Cunard tat, but it's nice all the same.

A badge, commemorating QE2's last voyage as a steam-driven ship

I don't wear ties, but these tie pins are nice

And a couple of bags. I can pretend I went on the 1993 world cruise...

...while the blue one opens out into a sizeable holdall.

I also ended up with copies of Ships Monthly and Sea Breezes from the 1980s, which took me right back. It was interesting going through those this morning and seeing how much things have changed, especially on the ferry and cruising front and not to mention how the size of ships has also grown, right across the board. Cruise ships, ferries and dry cargo ships have all grown much bigger over the past 30 years but tankers have actually grown a bit smaller, certainly in the Ultra-large class; you just don't see vast half-a-million DWT leviathans these days. Container ships have not only grown to huge proportions, they have also become ubiquitous as carriers of all sorts of dry cargo.
Famous names have since vanished, including the ferry operator Townsend Thoresen and the QE2 herself has also disappeared from our waters, although the latter still exists for now, languishing in Dubai. Unfortunately the magazines also brought back unwanted memories, as my teenage years were singularly unpleasant, thanks to a violent stepfather who made us kids' lives hell (he is, unfortunately, still alive while far better human beings have passed on at a younger age). Reading them took me right back to our home in Ryde which was not nice...I think I'll keep the interesting bits and photos of favourite ships (my beloved TT 'Spirits' feature quite a bit) and recycle the rest.

Hobbies keep people sane, I think and mine certainly did when I was a kid - that and rock music.