Category Archives: Cruise Ships

Followed by Rain Clouds

The weather was poor at times on our eastern Caribbean cruise late last year.  We had strong winds and high seas on two days that kept us from doing things we wanted.  And it seemed like clouds and rain followed us everywhere.

I didn’t mind.  I’ve written before about the benefits of clouds in landscape photography – clear blue skies can be boring!  And so I looked for interesting clouds and lighting:

Saba IslandSaba Island – Near the British Virgin Islands. 9 frame stitched panorama.

And started noticing rainbows too.  You can’t have rainbows without rain clouds!

Double Rainbow at Saba IslandDouble Rainbow at Saba Island – 4 frame, iPhone, RAW, stitched panorama.

We were in Road Town Harbor as squalls moved through, and saw this  rainbow develop across from the ship.  I looked for but didn’t see a pot of gold (or leprechaun) in the water at either end!

Rainbow in Road Town HarborRainbow in Road Town Harbor – 3 frame, iPhone, RAW, stitched panorama.

On another day in San Juan harbor we saw this:

Rainbows over the cruise shipRainbows over the cruise ship, San Juan, Puerto Rico – single frame, iPhone, RAW

Cloudy skies add interest, and chasing rainbows is fun photography.  I really didn’t mind being followed by rain clouds.  You shouldn’t either – look for all the opportunities it creates.

You can see more photos from the trip in this album on Flickr.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some cloudy sky photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Cruising Wildlife

Lynn and I were fortunate to be able to cruise the Caribbean once again earlier this month. I love watching birds and wildlife and trying to make photographs of their behavior.  On this trip we both saw something for the first time.

On more than one occasion, birds followed our ship and dove for fish right along side.

Brown Boobies were following the ship and diving for fish right along side.Brown Booby

There were mostly Brown Boobies with a few Masked Boobies mixed in.

There were a few Masked Boobies fishing tooMasked Booby

Flying Fish were also plentiful along our route and the ship’s wake seemed to scare them up as we passed.

Flying Fish were plentiful along our route and the ship seemed to scare them up as we passed.Flying Fish

A closer look at the Flying FishA closer look at the Flying Fish

Photographing the birds catching fish wasn’t easy. You have to track a bird (at high magnification) as it moves just above the water and focus / shoot continuously – then hope you catch the right moment before your camera buffer runs out. I managed to get a few frames although the quality is not high. This is probably the best one.

Just before the catchJust before the catch

I was using a new camera (Olympus E-M1 II) for the bird / fish photos.  The frame rate and continuous focus capabilities really helped.  There’s a new “Pro Capture” mode on this that I couldn’t use (didn’t have the right lens).  It captures frames with the shutter button pressed half way and saves them with a final frame when fully pressed.  It would have made this use case easier.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the camera works in other situations.

We also saw Magnificent Frigatebirds. They seem pretty common in the Caribbean – mostly in the harbors. I’ve only seen a few here in Florida, along both coasts

Magnificent FrigatebirdFemale Magnificent Frigatebird

Cruise directors plan interesting things for passengers to do while at sea but these may not appeal to everyone.   It’s good to have an alternative activity available like wildlife observation and photography when you’re looking for something fun to do.

I’m collecting other photos from the trip in this album on Flickr.  And I have several other blog posts that feature photography from cruise ships.  If you’re interested, see this link:  http://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-categorized-by-place/cruise-ships/

By the way (no.1): I realize that some spam filters may reject the email for this post due to the names of the birds.  If it happens to you, sorry.  You can always read the latest content on the web at http://edrosack.com

By the way (no. 2):  I think the search problem on the blog is resolved.  If anyone still has issues, please let me know.

By the way (no. 3):  Happy new year!  I hope all of you have a great holiday and prosperous and delightful 2017!

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Panama Canal

Our visit to the Panama Canal and passage through the Gatun Locks was the main feature of our recent cruise.   As an engineer, I’ve long been intrigued by the canal and it lived up to my expectations.  It’s amazing that something built over 100 years ago in such difficult conditions is still operating and remains an import part of global commerce.

The ship’s Captain planned well.  We arrived near the entrance just in time to view the day’s sunrise.

Panamanian SunrisePanamanian Sunrise – a pilot-boat paces us as we head toward the canal entrance

The crew opened up normally closed areas at the bow for viewing and many folks crowded there to watch the activity.

Entering the Panama CanalEntering the Panama Canal

At the evening meal the night before we arrived, Nino (the maître d’) promised us the “best seat in the house” if we came to breakfast at 7:30 that morning.  We thought we had a nice view up on the bow, but decided to follow his recommendation and go down to breakfast.  It was surprising how few people were in the dining room.  He fulfilled his promise and we sat at a table at the very stern of the ship right next to the large windows on deck 2 – and it did have the best view!!  Watching the locks filling and the canal walls go by from that vantage point was captivating.  It took longer than normal for us to finish our meal!

In the Panama Canal Gatun LocksIn the Panama Canal Gatun Locks – view from the Main dining room on deck 2

The MS Zuiderdam is 106 feet wide and the canal is only 110 feet, so there’s very little clearance.

MS Zuiderdam in the Panama Canal - showing the 2 foot clearance
View from our balcony on the 6th deck – 2 foot clearance!

The operation, control, and precision while in the canal is very skilful.  The photo above shows the 2 foot clearance between the ship and the canal.  One of the “mules”  (center left) is helping to position us and move us safely through.

Once past the locks, we anchored in Gatun Lake so people taking excursions could disembark.  Then we sailed back out through the canal and tied up for a port visit in Colon Harbor, where the excursions re-joined us that night.

Colon Harbor at nightColon Harbor at night

Colon wasn’t our favorite stop, although I was able to buy a genuine Panama Hat there.  Interesting fact:  Panama Hats are made in Ecuador!

I’ve posted a short video that we made in the canal here on YouTube.  It shows our entrance followed by a time-lapse as we descend into the Gatun Locks on our return.  Take a look if you get a chance.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Cruising Wildlife

Lynn and I returned last week from a wonderful visit with her brother Arthur, and his wife Michele.  We cruised together around the Caribbean on Holland America’s MS Zuiderdam. I’ll post more about the rest of our adventures later, but this time I’d like to write about wildlife photography from cruise ships.  Here’s one earlier post about this (North to Alaska, Ch. 1: Intro and Wildlife) but it’s a subject worth discussing again.

Our route went by the Bahamas, Aruba, Bonaire, Panama, and Costa Rica.  Many of the animals in these places are only inside zoos in the US.  It’s wonderful to see them wild in their natural habitats.

Sleepy SlothSleepy Sloth – A wild, two-toed sloth napping In the rain forest, along the Tortuguero Canal, near Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. They seem to be common there. We saw three on our tour – although they were hidden in trees and hard to find.

If you’re on vacation with your family,  the main reason for going isn’t wildlife photography, so you’ll have to improvise and stay alert for wildlife photo ops.  Since Lynn and I hadn’t ever been to these places, we took advantage of several “highlight” excursions offered by the cruise line.  The one to the Tortuguero Canal in Costa Rica was especially nice and we enjoyed seeing a variety of flora and fauna.

Masked Booby in flightMasked Booby in flight – These birds were feeding on fish (flying fish, and others) that were stirred up by the ship’s wake

The morning before we arrived in Aruba, we noticed “sea gulls” flying near the ship.  After breakfast I spent a while watching what turned out to be scores of Masked Boobies catching fish stirred up by the ship’s wake.  It was fun to watch (and photograph!).

American FlamingoA wild American / Caribbean Flamingo – Bonaire is famous for its flamingo populations and has one of only four nesting grounds for flamingos in the Caribbean.

On excursions, it’s helpful to have a good guide.  Our Costa Rican guide (Porfilio) was exceptional at seeing and pointing out the wildlife in the canal.  You could tell he liked his job, and we enjoyed our time with him immensely.

Howler MonkeyHowler Monkey – A wild monkey In the rain forest, along the Tortuguero Canal, near Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

Here are a few pointers if you go on a similar adventure:

  • Do your research ahead of time.  Look into the wildlife that lives in each place.
  • Search for reviews and critiques of the excursions offered and pick ones that give the best photography opportunities.
  • If possible, schedule your excursions for early in the day.  Animals are more active then, and it’s cooler.  I found the Masked Boobies at breakfast and we left for the Tortuguero Canal at 6:30am.
  • Question the guides.  They’re very helpful and can let you know the best place to sit, etc.
  • Have your camera out and ready to go, not in your backpack.  Many times the sightings will be brief, so pay attention and be ready to shoot instantly.
  • The animals will likely be far away and you’ll have to hand hold your shots, so you’ll definitely want a long lens with stabilization.  I used an Olympus E-M1 M4/3 camera and a 200 – 600mm equivalent lens for the photos in this post.

Hard core wildlife photographers will want to spend much longer in places like Costa Rica, but if you’re on a cruise don’t overlook the opportunities.  A few hours in a new place can lead to wonderful memories and unique images.

I’m collecting photos from the cruise in this folder on Flickr.  Please check back as I finish processing and add more.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

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.

Viera Wetlands update, 5/18/13

I went over to the coast yesterday with Kevin M.Kevin K.Lutfi E.

Sunrise sure is happening really early again!  We started out on the 520 Causeway near Port Canaveral – Kevin M. wanted to make a sunrise photo with a lit up cruise ship in the scene.  Here’s how my version turned out:

Disney cruise ship at dawn

Disney cruise ship at dawn – Port Canaveral, Florida

We also moved around looking for other compositions and I think each of us also made an image of this:

Beneath the Bridge
Beneath the Bridge – 520 Causeway looking east

After sunrise we moved down A1A to explore Lori Wilson Park and the boardwalk there.  It’s very nice and located right on the beach.  Migratory birds have been reported there, but we didn’t find any on Saturday.

Our last stop was Viera Wetlands.  We wanted to check on it because we hadn’t been by since February.  We saw a few of the common wading birds, some juvenile Anhingas, Ospreys, Coots, Glossy Ibis (that we hoped were White Faced Ibis – but weren’t), lots of Grackles, and a few other species.  We also took a turn around the Click Ponds where we found a relatively uncommon Black Crowned Night Heron.  Kevin M. managed a good photo when it came out of the reeds for a few seconds.

Black Crowned Night Heron

Black Crowned Night Heron (Photo by Kevin McKinney, used with permission)

This wasn’t our most productive or exciting trip ever, but we did have a good time.  The activity was slow – I think we’re starting to get into the summer birding slow down here in Central Florida.  We may need to look for a few different photo ops for the next few months.

You can read other Central Florida Photo Ops blog posts about Viera Wetlands from this link.  And I’ve collected other photos from there in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Christmas Time Cruising

Mike, Sara, and Mary joined Lynn and I for Christmas this year.  When we’re together we often visit a theme park, but since we liked our last cruise so much, we decided to take a holiday cruise instead.  We booked on Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas and departed from Port Canaveral for Nassau and Coco Cay on Friday, Dec. 21st.

Port Canaveral is about an hour east of Orlando on the 528 Beachline.  We found parking right at the pier and the embarkation wasn’t too bad, although there was a line getting through security.

Overall  the Monarch of the Seas was very enjoyable.  The food was good (the Strawberry Pavlova dessert was a BIG hit!), and so was the service.  Our staterooms were in different parts of the ship this time, which made coordination a little more difficult – but we worked it out.  Once nice thing about sailing at this time of year is that the ship was fully decked out for the holidays – Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, and other seasonal touches.

Seasons Greetings!
Ship’s decorations in the main atrium

We departed Port Canaveral late in the afternoon.  The weather was nice for the whole cruise and although Friday’s sunset wasn’t that great Saturday’s sunrise made up for it:

Pre-dawn clouds
Pre-dawn clouds in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida

We arrived in Nassau Saturday afternoon and spent time shopping.  Then Mike and Sara found us a great place to sample the local food (the Bahamian Cookin’ Restaurant) where we enjoyed their Conch Fritters.  After that, we all boarded a catamaran for a sunset tour of the harbor.  The low light combined with a moving boat made for a challenging photo-op, but I did get a few nice images.  One of the highlights was seeing Oprah Winfrey’s pair of side by side mansions (with a huge matching yacht).  I guess she uses the second mansion for guests – quite impressive.

Nassau harbor at night
Nassau harbor at night from the sunset cruise catamaran.  I thought the red and green running lights were an unexpected seasonal bonus!

From Nassau, we sailed to the Berry Islands where Royal Caribbean has exclusive use of Coco Cay (also known as Little Stirrup Cay).  They’ve set the place up for cruise passengers to enjoy beach time, snorkeling, shopping at a straw market, parasailing, wave runners, an aqua park, kayaking, hammocks, and of course – food. We had kayak reservations for first thing in the morning.  The wind was really blowing and even though we were a bit worried about it we went anyway.  It was a workout, but worth it in the end.  We paddled about a mile to a sand bar off of Big Stirrup Cay, where I made this photo:

A starfish in the ocean
A starfish in the ocean near a sand bar at Big Stirrup Cay.  We haven’t been able to ID this one – our guide told us it isn’t common.

Later, back on Coco Cay we relaxed, shopped, and yes, ate too much. Mike and Sara also went snorkeling and saw fish, Sting Rays, Spotted Eagle Rays, and coral.

Sara and Mike enjoy the view
Sara and Mike enjoy the view from our Coco Cay cabana

It was a wonderful way to spend time with our family.  Except for the wind, the weather was great and not at all typical of the season in most of the country.  Poor Mike and Sara had to return home to winter storms and snow.  I imagine it was a bit of a change!

You can click any of the photos above to see larger versions on Flickr and I’ve posted several more from our cruise in this set.

This is my last post of 2012.  I’ll be back next year and I hope you will too.  May you, your family, and your friends all have a happy and prosperous new year.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, get cruising and make some photos!

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.