Cruise Ship Photo Experiments

We went on a family cruise to the Bahamas during Thanksgiving week aboard the MS Carnival Liberty, out of Port Canaveral.  It was a large group with Lynn and I, Mary, Mike and Sara, Julie, and Nancy and Howard all along for a wonderful vacation.  Except for wind and current on the day we were supposed to visit Half Moon Cay, the weather was nice.  And the food was delicious and plentiful and the company was delightful too!  We had a great time!

It was a family vacation, but of course I brought along a camera (or two, or three) and I made some photos on the trip.  I’ve written about cruise ship photography before (see Cruise Ship Photography Ops and Christmas Time Cruising).  In this new post, I’d like to tell you about some techniques I tried on this cruise.  It’s fun to experiment and I thought you might be interested in how they turned out.  Here are three photos and some background on how I made them.

1.  Long exposure photography from a moving ship

I’ve wanted to try something like this on earlier cruises, but never have.  Long exposures can add interest to a photo and make it look very different from most tourist snapshots.  But usually, you lock your camera down on a stable tripod and only some things in the scene (e.g. water, clouds) are moving.  On a ship, I was worried that everything is moving.  If I tried to use my tripod for a sunrise for instance, the sun might be unacceptably blurred due to the motion.    But I made it work for this photo by composing with the ship as the subject and using it to fill the foreground.  Since the ship doesn’t move relative to my camera, it’s very sharp.  The horizon and the other ship are far enough away so that any motion blur isn’t a problem.  And with a four-second exposure, the water and clouds take on a dreamy look that I like.

The view aft, before dawn
The view aft, before dawn.  (21mm eq. field of view, f/8, 4 seconds at ISO 200)

2. Stitched panoramas from a moving ship:

Panoramas are also problematic from a moving ship.  The change in the camera’s position between frames can lead to issues when stitching frames together, especially if you use automatic stitching software.  For this photo, I made two frames.  Instead of using automatic stitching, I loaded the frames into layers in Photoshop and selected Edit -> Auto Align Layers.  Then I manually blended them using layer masks and was able to use the natural seam along the right hand side of the breakwater as the line between the images.  Since not much overlaps there except water, I could hide any perspective shift stitching errors.

Nassau Light
Nassau Light – Leaving port late in the day.  (f/2.8, 1/100 second at ISO 125.  70mm eq. focal length, two vertical frames, stitched panorama, hand-held)

3. Low light photos without a tripod

And finally, here is another stitched panorama.  In this one, the ship was moving very slowly, so I probably could have used a tripod.  But – I didn’t have it with me!  Bad Ed!  So instead, I upped my ISO, and opened my aperture so that I could shoot hand-held.  Even though the pre-dawn light was dim, I was still able to make a super wide image consisting of 9 vertical frames showing our arrival back at Port Canaveral.

Pre-dawn arrival in Port Canaveral
Pre-dawn arrival in Port Canaveral.  (f/1.8, 1/50 second at ISO 1000.  24mm eq. focal length, nine vertical frames, hand-held, stitched panorama)

So that’s how I got these three shots.  Photography is an interesting pursuit.  Creativity helps – and not just with subject, composition, etc., but also with technique.  Now I know these descriptions aren’t very detailed, but maybe they’ll give you an idea or two to try for yourself.  If you want more information, please feel free to ask in the comments.  I’d be happy to answer questions.

You can find larger versions of these photos on Flickr (just click the image).  And more photos from this cruise are in this set:

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some cruise ship photos!
©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

About Ed Rosack

I live in Central Florida and enjoy exploring the area. I'm interested in nature and wildlife photography - and many other things. I'm the chief reporter, lead writer, managing editor, main photographer, and publisher of the Central Florida Photo Ops website hosted at www.edrosack.com. You can also see more of my photos on my Flickr stream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/

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