Monday, 19 May 2014


I am going to close this blog - although it won't be deleted, it just won't be updated after today - and perhaps my Twitter account, too, and just post to my Flickr and Facebook pages (links to these are at the top of the page) and website. With Twitter, this blog, the website, Flickr and my Facebook page, it's overkill and has got a little completely out of hand. After a few hours out photographing, I spend as much, if not more, time posting to the internet! I've got other hobbies and interests also competing for time and, as well as that, I am going back to work at the beginning of June and won't have as much time to look after all my sites.
If I start another blog (never say never) it will be on the Wordpress platform, same as the website, and fully integrated with that website, rather than hosted separately.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

In high places

Photos from Culver Down last week. Click for largest size.

I was going to go to Portsmouth for the departure of Voyager at 1500, then to Cowes for the departures of the six cruise ships in Southampton today. In the end, I didn't bother with either and watched the (very entertaining) FA Cup Final instead, because of feeling ill (I strongly suspect a recurrence of a liver problem from just over three years ago so off the booze for a bit).

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Three Queens, Southampton, 9th May 2014

On 9th May 2014, Cunard's three 'Queen' cruise ships were all in Southampton together with the latest occasion being Queen Mary 2's tenth anniversary celebrations. They arrived in the very early morning, passing Cowes at the uncivilised hour of 0350, before arriving at Southampton. I saw on Southampton VTS that Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth would be facing each other on 38/39 and 40 so I decided to go over because this would be a unique shot...sadly not as it turned out. I didn't realise this was only temporary for the arrival photos and, by the time I got to Southampton, Queen Victoria was at the City terminal (berth 101) and, worse, starboard side to.

Conditions in the Solent were rough, with gale-force winds and choppy seas, which made for a nice bumpy crossing. Sister ship Red Falcon, complete with her new enhancements, passed us on her way to East Cowes.

(N.B. The full-size photos are mostly larger than usual, 1500 x 1000, so you need to click on them for the largest. I am also not posting all of them, so please go to my Flickr page if you want to see them all)

Cruise ship Rotterdam was in Southampton Water, having sailed at 1100. Her visit was just a fleeting one as Holland America ships never hang around for very long. Because of the gale, it was hard to stand up properly out on deck and even harder to hold the camera steady, so the Rotterdam photos are not among the best I've ever taken.

On arrival in Southampton, it was evident that the Queen ships were not well placed for photography. Queen Elizabeth was okay, as she was at the QEII terminal facing down Southampton Water - good for travellers to and from the Isle of Wight (one thing in our favour!) but not so good for those on the Southampton side - Queen Mary 2 was bow in at the Ocean Cruise Terminal, which was disappointing because it meant there were no good opportunities for a photo of her at all and she was the reason for all the fuss, and Queen Victoria was starboard side to at the City Cruise Terminal, berth 101, so with her back to everyone.

I walked down through the car parks towards Dock Gates 4 and 5 and, as I got to the new Dock Gate 5 (open but still under construction) I decided to try it on and slip past the security guard to see if I could get some decent photos without great big fences or cars in the way. I have to give it to him, he was quick even though he was also dealing with some other passers-by attempting the same. As the ensuing conversation went exactly as I expected it would (Him: 'Can I help you'; Me, playing the dumb tourist: 'I want to get a photo'; Him: 'No chance mate, go to Town Quay. Do you know where it is?'; Me: 'No problem') , I didn't pursue it further, there was no point and I know better than that, and walked back to Town Quay.

I headed back towards Town Quay and ran into my friend Slinky-Dave Shepherd and his mum, who were in Southampton for the event. They were doing a boat trip at 1530 from Ocean Village and asked me if I was going along. I said no, assuming the trips were sold out as I'd not previously booked one, hoping I'd be working instead. However, SDS's mum showed me Blue Funnel's phone number so I gave them a ring, they had plenty of spaces and I duly found myself on a boat trip round the docks.

Something's happened to the colour rendition here. It looks fine elsewhere. Odd.

The boat trip finished a little late, 1640 instead of 1630, so I hurried for the 1700 Red Funnel back to the island. In fact, I ended up having to run and made it onboard Red Falcon just before her engines started. Two days later, I am paying for running through Southampton as my knees are killing me!

Last but not least, I got back to East Cowes as Arcadia was rounding Calshot. If ships really do have a soul and can think, as some of the more romantic claim (and I am not completely immune to that way of thinking myself), I wonder what she makes of the three Queens and it being their day, considering she was originally supposed to be Queen Victoria?

[rant ahead]The day didn't get off to a good start, I found out that a job one of the employment agencies told me they were sending me to had fallen through so, instead of several weeks of paid employment, I'm "looking forward" to yet more weekday boredom and no money - and all my efforts at getting a permanent job have fallen onto stony ground. Added to which, having decided to take the vehicle ferry when I got to East Cowes for photography purposes as Holland America's Rotterdam was sailing at 1100, I found the free car park was mostly closed off with the remaining spaces all taken. Ten minutes and a tirade of f-words later I eventually found a space miles away, which was not ideal and meant I needed to hurry for the ferry. All in all I wasn't a happy person by the time I got on the ferry and was beginning to wish I hadn't bothered!
It also meant that I decided not to stay in Southampton for the fireworks and sailings later in the evening because I didn't fancy a longish walk through the town at night. This three Queens event was characterised by rubbish arrival and departure times. 2130 onwards is not good, especially for us islanders, and the arrivals were worse, bearing in mind there are no ferries before 0545 from the island. So that, along with Red Funnel's crappy timetable, meant island residents were unable to make the best out of the event. Plus there's the photography issue. Fireworks are all very nice and modern DSLRs have excellent low-light performance but photographers want good light for photos, not the dark. Red Funnel were doing a special event cruise from Southampton, using the Red Falcon, but, at £25 plus another £15.20 to get to Southampton and home for us IoW residents, that was not a happening thing as far as I was concerned. That, and the work situation, is making me think even more about 'de-islanding' myself and moving back to the mainland because I'm increasingly sick of crap timetables, adding at least an hour onto journeys and, especially, paying through the nose to get off the bloody place, even for a day out [rant over].

Sunday, 4 May 2014

May the Fourth be with you

An impromptu family gathering in Southampton yielded a few photos from Mayflower Park.

Adventure of the Seas. This impressed my nephews, who now want to go on a cruise. They'd better ask their mum (my sister) about that...


Smit Buffalo

And, back at Town Quay, Red Jet 5

I used the 70D for the majority of these shots, apart from Oriana and the top Adventure of the Seas pic. The quality from this camera is superb, not quite as good as the full frame 6D (no surprise) but still excellent.

Happy Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

St George's Day ships

It's been two weeks since I got home from my trip Down Under (a few more photos from there will be added in due course) and I've been largely holed up at home, suffering the duel afflictions of Being Skint - which is closely allied with the one called Out Of Work - and Post-trip Blues.
In an attempt to banish the latter affliction I decided to nip over to Portsmouth to photograph Cap Finistere, which I had only distant photos of, and Etretat, the former Norman Voyager, which entered service with Brittany Ferries while I was away. The forecast was crap but bugger it, it was high time I left the house. I also arranged to meet my friend Slinky-Dave, which gave me the opportunity to give him back his hoody and tripod bag he left in my car after that ill-fated Tilbury trip last October.

I know that these ships are probably chapeau ancienne to most locals but, distant views of both (Etretat in her former guise) aside, they aren't to me.

First up was St. Faith

Then Cap Finistere

Etretat was not far behind

At least Etretat's wavy blue hull (left from her LD Lines days) makes a change from the largely - boring - white that ferry companies, and cruise lines, tend to go in for these days.

The rain at least had the manners to hold off until we'd got our photos.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Australian National Maritime Museum

While in Sydney, I visited the Australian National Maritime Museum, located at Darling Harbour. It was a filthy day and, while I was there, there was a colossal thunderstorm which caused flash floods in and around the area. By then, I'd seen all I wanted to but stayed put until the worst of the rain had stopped, lurking in the shop. The shop had a decent selection of books and some pretty good ship models too but I refrained from buying any because of budgetary restraints as well as considering the fact there was a possibility my baggage could end up exceeding the airline's restrictions (Malaysia Airlines only allow 20 kg of checked bags and a measly 7 kg of carry-on luggage if you're in steerage class).

I paid $27 to go in, which allowed you to visit the ships they had on display, including HMAS Vampire, a Daring-class destroyer, and HMAS Onslow, an Oberon-class submarine (if that sounds familiar, the Royal Navy had Oberon-class subs until the 1990s).

I visited HMAS Vampire first, because there were some threatening clouds coming in from the Pacific Ocean so visiting the ships first then heading inside looked like the best option.

Other ships

A few of the inside exhibits

A model of SS Orcades

Surfing - Australia is one of the word's foremost surfing locations.

A former RAN helicopter

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Newcastle, NSW

During my time in Australia, I went up the coast to the port of Newcastle for a couple of days, which, like its namesake UK counterpart once was (although the Port of Tyne is still a major UK port, handling other types of bulk cargoes among other things), is an export port for coal - in fact it's the world's biggest coal exporting port, exporting coal mined in the Hunter Valley -  so there are a lot of bulk carriers in and out.
Newcastle is 101 miles north of Sydney and is an easy train ride (just under three hours and no changes) from Sydney Central Station. From there, you can walk straight to the waterfront and see the berths and anything on the move, which will come straight past you.

Unfortunately the weather was a bit overcast and grey, although at least it only rained a little, with some drizzle early one afternoon.

Here's a Google map of the spots I took photos from, which might be useful to anyone visiting the area. You can click on the map and move it around within its window, or you can open a larger version.

Photos of some of the ships alongside, which were taken from the Stockton side of the Hunter River

Hanjin Hinase

Ikan Belanak


Ocean Clarion

As I was walking back to the ferry, I noticed three tugs on the move towards the river mouth, which meant something had to be coming in.

Svitzer Hamilton

Svitzer Myall


Bulk carrier Kaiyo was the one coming in, presumably to collect coal for Japan or China.

Later that afternoon another bulk carrier, Shoyo, departed from the port for Japan. After a bit of a wait (it's annoying not using my mobile to look at Marine Traffic, among other things, in Australia but the data charges outside the EU are extortionate) I photographed this one from the Newcastle side, from the 'Nobby's Beach Reserve', an area of sand dunes near the river entrance as she headed for the South Pacific Ocean.

One miscellaneous item that I nearly forgot was the local dredger David Allan

That was it for Newcastle. I wasn't staying long, as I had things to go to elsewhere in Sydney and western NSW, and headed back on the train the following morning. I wasn't expecting to see much but it was more productive than I thought it was going to be. There were further ship movements but they were in the evening or early hours.