AFTER OUR 3-day stretch in Cape Town, it was time to board our Cruise Ship. Because we stayed at the waterfront our uber trip to the cruise terminal was short. Our ship, the Oceania Nautica, was wholly new to us. We are seasoned cruisers, having cruised over a dozen times during the past 15 years on Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. Some may know that Royal Caribbean actually owns Celebrity (our cruise line of choice), among several other lines. Most of our cruises have been on Celebrity, with Princess, which is very similar, coming second. We were used to a well-honed routine. Our usual ship capacity is from 2,500 – 3,000 passengers (we have been on full ships and less than full ships). I have always marveled at how efficiently these cruise lines handle the process of boarding and landing that many people – both at the beginning and the end of the cruises, and at every stop. We have only had one time where we felt we had to wait a long time in a line. And there were some issues with the ship before we embarked, causing a late boarding, so not surprising.
OCEANIA, HOWEVER, was a completely different experience, much to our surprise. Our expectations, for a couple reasons, were high. They were not completely met. Advertising themselves as “Small Ship Luxury” cruising, the Nautica had a maximum passenger capacity of just over 600 passengers – a quarter of what our previous ships handled. Second (while I wouldn’t characterize our experience as completely fitting their description) it was supposed to be a luxury cruise line and our cost (nearly twice what we normally pay) would have suggested a first rate, efficient experience. Our boarding experience set a tone of unmet expectations. We arrived at our appointment time at the cruise terminal. It appears that everyoneelse on the ship may also have arrived at that time. Handing off the baggage was the easy part. From there on, it was borderline chaos. We had been issued a digital boarding pass well in advance and had our phones out and ready. They didn’t ask us for that boarding pass at any point during the boarding process! They did have us fill in a handwritten form they had neglected to put on their online app. Everyone needed to fill it out. I think they had 2 pens. We then stood in line (one of several before the boarding process was complete) for at least 30 minutes, as it wound back and forth between the “Disney ropes.” It turns out that line was just for the carryon baggage screening. The line moved in fits and starts. There were two available screening lines and machines and apparently enough employees. But inexplicably, they were using only one of them. Once through that line, we walked into another line for a passport check. Another 10 – 15 minutes. We then were sent outside, along the wharf, for a rather long walk to the gangway (we know people who would have had difficulty doing that walk without assistance). Nobody was out there guiding us, and nobody watching or supervising, although we could see the ship and it was the only one there. At the gangway, we waited in line again (line #3). After another 10 minutes, we finally made it on board. The chaos continued. They checked our passports again, against a handheld, typed list (even though they had computer screens everywhere), and then told us: “welcome aboard.” Still no request to see our pre-issued electronic boarding pass, leaving us to wonder what its purpose was? Once aboard, we thought it odd that we had no ship card (sea pass), or any other identification, but we were directed to Deck 5 where we joined another line. But it wasn’t the right line. We only discovered that after an employee somewhat officiously asked to see our ship cards. To which we responded that we had not been issued cards, and thought we were in line to get them. She informed us that we were in line for the main dining room and lunch, but she couldn’t serve us without a ship pass. It wasn’t just us. There were at least 20 of us who had been sent here by an employee downstairs. So, this staff person took the group of us to where we should have been directed in the first place, where we joined yet another line to wait for our ship cards. Did I mention chaos? Oh, and that we still weren’t asked to show our boarding pass? Once we finally got to the front of that line, the employee handed me an e-tablet and asked me to sign it. “What am I signing,” I asked. She said it was a series of questions that she would ask, and I would answer. After I signed the blank tablet. Nope. I will sign it after you ask the questions (all of them) and I have answered. Wow. We did finally get our cards. We then had to go back down to the purser’s desk to upgrade our drink package (fortunately, only one other couple in line in front of us – we would meet them later and hear their sad story of Nautica-arranged transportation and their baggage not making it to the port – fortunately for them, we didn’t leave until many hours after the scheduled departure and their bags arrived during that time).
WHEW. WE were finally boarded and only had to wait for our luggage to be delivered. Just for comparison, our Celebrity cruises have worked like this. We get a digital boarding pass on their app several weeks before boarding. We are given a boarding appointment time. We arrive at the terminal at our appointed time, drop the luggage off, get in a fast-moving line and when we reach the front (usually about 5 minutes), we show the boarding pass, our passport, and answer a few quick health check questions. We are then invited to board the ship. Our sea pass cards are already in an envelope in the slot outside our stateroom, where we can drop off any carryon stuff, freshen up, and begin the cruise. Our Princess experiences have been similar, except that they issue the seapass or medallion during the boarding process. On my recent boarding of the Celebrity Equinox a couple weeks ago in Ft. Lauderdale, thinking back to the Nautica experience, I actually timed it. I arrived at the terminal and turned my bag over to the ship porter. I then walked up an escalator, showed my passport, had a photo taken, immediately boarded the ship, headed for my stateroom, where my seapass was waiting in an envelope. Upgraded beverage package had already been taken care of and my seapass reflected that. From the time I stepped off the shuttle from the parking lot, the entire process took 10 minutes.
IT WAS not all bad. I mean, all of the above were what I like to call these days: “First World Problems.” If we had not experienced more efficient processes, we might not have known any better. We were still on a cruise, and still having fun. We know there are many who never get to experience this. My primary point for the critique was by way of comparison. And the fact that the significantly more expensive, “luxury” dubbed cruise line was so comparatively hapless. On board, the ship was very nicely appointed in traditional dark wood tones. The food was uniformly excellent, including the buffet. The wait staff was superb; welcoming, efficient and friendly. It didn’t take them long to know us individually at the various bars and the main dining room. The bars were great, and the bartenders made a good drink (though they did not have many of their advertised items, including wine selection and my favorite gins – another strike against management in my view – which is really where all my “darts” are pointed 🙂 ). Compared to our Celebrity/Princess experiences: They didn’t have as good or high-quality selection or variety of alcohol, and this seems incongruous with their self-characterization as a “luxury cruise line.” And we have experienced the same “positives” every other prior cruise we have been on. The “everyman” staff on these cruise ships (room stewards, bartenders, wait staff) are always great, and given the working conditions and often their own life conditions, it is amazing to us that they continue to perform so well, always with a smile! On the Nautica, I will say that everything was clean. And the entertainment was really good. It was a small ship, and the production crew was perhaps a tenth of what we normally see. But they are equally talented dancers and musicians. All week they had a string quartet on one of the quiet areas inside the ship. And they had a jazz/contemporary combo that played on the pool deck most days for a couple hours and up in the main lounge most nights for a couple hours. The leader, pictured with me below, played two saxophones and the clarinet, and sang. He was uber talented and a really friendly guy! Definitely my favorite on board entertainment.
THESHIP was kind of a “mini-me” version of what we were used to. Everything – and I mean everything was small. The rooms, though clean, were small. The balcony was really too narrow to sit and enjoy. The bathroom was cramped – so much so that I couldn’t comfortably turn around in the wardrobe-sized shower, nor fit on the commode without knees bumping something. Having just come off the Celebrity Equinox (not by a long shot their nicest ship), I can say the room quality is equivalent to the Nautica, and much roomier. The pool was smaller than my own pool here in Florida. The pool area was adequate, but still probably about 1/3 the size we see on the Princess and Celebrity ships. And only a single pool deck. There were two smoking areas. One was a “fishbowl” glassed in room off the largest bar/entertainment area on the ship. It was cigarettes only. The other was a corner off the pool deck. It was fine, and I spent a fair amount of time there. But though it was semi-open, it was not really outdoors. I get that smoking is not “politically correct” these days (especially in a non-European context), but really, it felt a little bit like we were being punished. I address that issue in some detail in my other blog, “I Am A Celebrity,” which is more specifically focused on cruising – where this one is supposed to be about photography. 🙂 And besides, all my complaints are really small in the scope of things. What I mentioned above as “First World Problems.” We had fun on the cruise. We met some wonderful new friends, caught up with some old friends, and generally had a great time. So, yeah, “first world problems.”
SO I will get down off my soapbox. This cruise was supposed to have 5 stops, with a couple at-sea days in between the longer distances. We were scheduled to leave Cape Town around 4:00 p.m. and cruise north to Namibia, our only scheduled stop outside of South Africa. The high winds that had characterized our stay in Cape Town continued. They had forced our ship, which terminated there, to sail around the bay in a pattern for several hours before they felt that they could safely dock. The wind was blowing directly onto the pier, and the area is tight. There was concern that we would not be able to safely push away, so our departure was delayed. We finally departed at around 3:00 a.m. the following morning, with tugboats pulling us sideways off the pier.
IN SPITE of timing, we did make it to Walvis Bay, Namibia on the morning we were scheduled to arrive. Those who had excursions were able to keep them, for the most part. We didn’t have anything planned, so we walked off the ship and hired one of the companies that are always offering their services to tourists. We knew we had a couple animal park drives later in the week, so we weren’t really concerned. We had a nice, relaxing afternoon, with our driver taking us to see flamingos, the pink salt reclamation operations (they actually “mine” both pink and white salt), and sand dunes. We ended with a Namibian beer – Windhoek. It was pretty good.
FOR YEARS, I have associated pink salt with Himalaya (that’s what I see in the grocery stores: “Himalayan Pink Salt”). For all I know it is taken from the mines beneath Detroit, Michigan and died with Red Dye # 2. 🙂 Bordered by Angola to the north, South Africa to the South and Botswana to the East (with Zimbabwe a close neighbor), I was surprised to see on a map the size of the Namibian land mass, and the length of its Atlantic Coastline. Namibia is mostly desert (the most arid of the countries in the African Peninsula). That means there is a lot of sand. Less than 1% of Namibia’s entire land mass is considered “arable” (farmable). Yet ironically, more than 50% of the Namibian population is engaged in agriculture (albeit the bulk of that is “subsistence farming” in rural areas). But along the coastal marshes of the Atlantic, impounds have been made by draining ocean water onto large land masses, and then letting it evaporate, leaving salt deposits. Those deposits form one of Namibia’s important agricultural industries – particularly in Walvis Bay.
OTHER MINERALS play an even bigger part in Namibia’s economy. Especially Uranium and Diamonds. Namibia is said to have rich alluvial deposits of diamonds. Of course, the African Continent is famously know for its diamond mining and production. And not in a good way. The term “blood diamonds” has a well-deserved pejorative meaning. Namibia may be different. Originally inhabited – like the rest of the South African Peninsula, with indigenous tribal cultures, in the late 1800’s, Germany established a colony – and eventual ruled over much of what is now Namibia; ostensibly as a bulwark against continuing British control over South Africa and the eastern parts of the peninsula. The German immigration was exploitative, to the point of genocide against the native people. They ruled (and exploited) the area until World War I, when the Germans were driven out, and the territory came under the rule of South Africa. During the 1940s and beyond, South Africa’s white ruling minority imposed apartheid on Namibia. Namibia gained its independence following an extended period of conflict between the United Nations and South Africa, and prolonged guerilla warfare on the ground, in the late 1980’s. The first Namibian Constitution was adopted in 1990. Since then, (at least according to their propaganda), Namibia appears to be a progressive country, with a humanist, and ecological philosophy. Government includes a democratically elected head of state as well as a bicameral legislature. Intended to be “multi-party,” a single party has effectively always one the election and occupied the positions of power. Wikipedia notes that: “Although much of the world’s diamond supply comes from what have been called African blood diamonds, Namibia has managed to develop a diamond mining industry largely free of the kinds of conflict, extortion, and murder that have plagued many other African nations with diamond mines.” We did not visit, or hear much about, any diamond mining during our time in South Africa.
WE FINISHED our day at an outdoor bar at the entrance to the sand dunes. I had told our driver I wanted to try some local beer (i.e., actually brewed in country). There were two, but the one I chose was Windhoek, named for (and presumably brewed in) Namibia’s capitol city. It was good and refreshing. We headed back to the ship for the long, next leg, back down and around the Cape of Good Hope, from the Atlantic into the Indian Ocean, and up the eastern coast of South Africa. Our next stop: Port Elizabeth.
[I am back. 🙂 Just over two weeks across the world to South Africa, a new place for us, with new adventures. But there is still so much to catch up on from 2022, including the rest of the Baltic and another trip to the Mediterranean. In the meantime, I am processing the images from the South Africa trip. Stay tuned] . . . .
HELSINKI IS a weirdly modern city (though my photographs won’t show it), with some very classic underpinnings. Originally part of Sweden, the country is essentially bi-lingual (Finnish and Swedish) and even has dual-language street signage (though the Swedish are still a minority of the Finnish population). In 1809, Russia occupied Finland, and under Russian rule, The Grand Duchy of Finland was created. While Helsinki became modernized and industrialized, most of the rest of Finland remained poor and undeveloped. In the 1900’s many of its rural occupants actually emigrated to the U.S. (primarily Minnesota, but there were also sizeable settlements in Michigan’s western upper peninsula). In 1917, Finland won its independence from Russia, and prospered (more or less) as their own nation for the next 20-plus years. The secret “Nazi – Soviet Union Pact” of 1939 “assigned” Finland (along with other Baltic nations – notably Estonia) to the Soviet Union. They invaded Finland in 1939, but were repelled, largely by white clad, Finnish ski troops. Known as “The Winter War,” it insured that Finland remained independent over the next 5 years, but by 1944, the Soviets wore them down and the two agreed to a ceasefire, which left Finland, though they remained a sovereign nation, heavily under Soviet influence. As “reparations,” Finland agreed to cede parts of eastern Finland and Lapland to the Soviets. This rather precarious detente left Finland in the position of “friendly” neutrality toward the Soviet Union, while at the same time, trying to participate in the strong economy of the west.
Helsinki is the only European Capitol with no Medieval past
HISTORICALLY, FINLAND and Sweden have maintained very close cultural ties. You can see a lot of the same kinds of developments (architecture, electronics and tech, for example). The languages are similar. Their religious and governmental institutions are similar. Indeed, there is robust travel between the two cities of Stockholm and Helsinki, largely by boat. Not less than three cruise line companies maintain an overnight “cruise/ferry” shuttle between the two ports. The ferries resemble small cruise ships, replete with staterooms, dining, bars and “nightlife.” It is a popular vacation gambit to take one of these overnight cruises. We saw the ships in the center city port near market square, and several times later in the week during our passage in and out of Stockholm.
THE “COLLAPSE” of the Soviet Union had mixed results. The Soviets were responsible for a substantial portion of Finland’s trade, and that had a depressive effect for a few years. But during the Cold War era, Finland had become known for its modern design, and had grown its timber and paper industries, which resulted in broader, worldwide trade. Eventually, Finland bounced back. One of the notable industries that grew in Finland was its electronics industry (most notably, the one-time telecommunications and cell-phone giant). But maybe the important of developments for the photographer happened during the Russian occupancy. Rick Steves, in one of his books, notes that Helsinki is the only European Capitol with no Medieval past. This is because it remained only a small, rural village during Medieval times. There isn’t any “old city,” like you find in so many other European cities. It wasn’t until 1809 that the Russians decided to move the capital of Finland from Turku to Helsinki (according to some historians, so it would be closer to St. Petersburg). In 1955 Russian Czar Alexander II (who also held the title of Grand Duke of Finland) had a strong affection for Helsinki, and the Russians commissioned German architect, Carl Ludvig to design and construct new public buildings around the area of Senate Square and Market Square. Largely patterned after St. Petersburg, the buildings have a strong Russian “look” to them, with Neoclassical influence . In fact, the area is so reminiscent of Russia, that (during the Cold War and restrictions associated with it) significant parts of the movies Dr. Zhivago and Gorky Park were filmed in Helsinki. Not one to shy away from self-aggrandizement, the statute dedicated to the Czar (who admittedly did a lot for Helsinki) is in the center of Senate Square.
THIS AREA of Helsinki, particularly Senate Square, was in my sights. This particular cruise, coming off of the pandemic, not being our first choice, and being still somewhat up in the air, meant is was one of the least “planned” of any of our cruises. Consequently, we did not have a guide or excursion booked for Helsinki. I had read (primarily from Rick Steve’s book), that Helsinki was one of those cities you could do a self-guided tour in.
HELSINKI HAS a nice tram system that is reputed to hit most of the main spots. We did not use it but opted for one of the ubiquitous “Hop on – Hop off” buses. As a cruise stop, one of the strong negatives of Helsinki (at least in our view) was that the major cruise ships dock quite far away from the city. The way in is either by the shuttle bus offered by the cruise line (for an out-of-pocket charge), or in this case, the Hop On – Hop Off buses, which made the cruise port (just steps from the ship) one of their stops. It seemed to make sense to us to just pay the one fee, rather than pay for the shuttle (which it turns out, dropped off and picked up right at Senate Square – good information for another trip) and the Hop On – Hop Off, once we arrived in the center city.
I FORESHADOWED in an earlier post, that you would “meet” our new friends, Mike and Elaine. The night before we boarded the ship in Amsterdam, after a fairly long day on our feet, we decided to eat dinner in the Movenpick Hotel restaurant, rather than head back out into the city. We were seated next to a couple, who it turned out, were also boarding our ship the next day. They were from near Buffalo, New York and had done a few cruises before. We had a cordial conversation and agreed we would seek each other out on the ship. Being “at sea” for the first day, we did run into them and got to know them better. Mike has a lively sense of humor, and both are fun to be around. We ultimately spent a fair amount of time with them both on board, and we shared a couple on shore excursions. This day, neither of us had a “plan” so we agreed to meet on shore and take the Hop on – Hop off together. We enjoyed each other’s company enough that we decided to “join” them on the Celebrity Constellation this coming February in the Caribbean. We also met some other fun friends on board. We always seem to make new friends on cruises.
THE HOP on – Hop off buses are a bit of an enigma to me. I am not sure what the business model is, but maybe some kind of franchise? We have had quite mixed results. In Dublin, Barcelona, London, and Paris, we thought they were quite good. They stopped or got very close to most of the sought-after (by us) places, gave us a great “lay of the land,” and ruled out sites we had not made up our minds about. Other places, they were not so good. The worst we ever did was in Malta. While I am sure that are a lot of great things to do in Malta, I would definitely not recommend the Hop on – Hop off as one of them. 😦 Helsinki wasn’t great, either. The problem with Helsinki was that while it passed by most of the prime sights of the city, it never really got close enough for a good look. You would have had to get off at virtually every stop to scout it and see if it was even worthwhile. We rode it to the city center and then found our way to the Senate Square (our – my, at least 🙂 ) first destination. Turns out we could have ridden one more stop and gotten there directly. After that, we walked around the Senate Square, and back down to the waterfront and the Market Square. We had a beer in the famous Cafe along the promenade, and then made our way back to the Hop on – Hop off stop, basically where we started. There, we waited 45 minutes for the next bus (they are supposed to stop every 15 minutes, but we have heard over the years that some are better than others).
WE DID not do any shopping or see some of the more remote things in the city – other than from the bus. But that was o.k. with us. We had a nice day, I had a couple really good photo ops, and we were content to return to the ship for “happy hour.” 🙂
O N THIS last day of 2022, it seemed fitting to reflect on this incredible photographic year, as well as looking forward to what 2023 will bring. When I wrote this same year-in-review post 12 months ago, I could hardly have imagined it could be an even more eventful year. But as good as 2021 was, 2022 has been amazing. It seems like I always used to do some kind of a wrap-up/thanks type piece. Last week, I posted my “favorites.” This is more of a revisit of some of my experiences in this eventful year – both traveling and at home.
FIRST THOUGH, I want to say not only HAPPY NEW YEAR!, but also THANK YOU to all that read this blog. Looking back, we have had some big travel years. And we have had some that, though they were not so big, were very fulfilling, photographically. 2022 was full and fulfilling. May 2023 only be better! I think maybe 2022 yielded some of my best ever images.
TRAVEL INSPIRES most of my shooting these days. A quick look at my portfolio over 40-plus years has revealed to me that a high percentage of my images were made during our recent travel years; and are travel-oriented. I have been revamping my archival tagging system and was surprised (though not shocked) to see that my digital archives number just under 50,000 images. My lifetime count is certainly higher than that. My “tracking” is not completely accurate. I began the more serious endeavor of photography in 1977 and for the first 25 of those years, I had a less than optimal archiving system. Since moving to digital, I have archived everything. By my calculations, I have made an average of about 2,000 images per year over the past 21 or so years. Part of that increase was no doubt the fact that we could shoot with relative impunity, once we no longer had to purchase film and processing (I have actually tried to make a concerted effort over the past few years to make fewer images and be more thoughtful in the field about what I shoot). I once had file boxes of color transparency slides, of which I only scanned and saved a few. And, sadly, that was mainly only from the mid-1990’s on (I know I made some nice photographs in the earlier years – 1978-1982, especially. I didn’t do a good job of archiving. I have only one or two of my slides from the 70’s – 80’s, and virtually none of the work – mainly B&W – I did while on the college newspaper and yearbook staff). I think they call that “young and dumb.” 🙂
EVEN when I am out around home these days, I am spending more time on street shooting and cityscapes these days. So, it stands to reason that my roundup of this year will be mostly those subjects. Still, I did get some time behind the lens for just landscape shooting, and those opportunities were pretty special. A combination of increased travel (4 trips outside the U.S. and one dedicated trip in the U.S.), playing with some new photographic gear (purposed for travel), and perhaps some pent-up, post-Covid attitude, mean more images for me than usual this year (just under 7.000 images). This year’s take was by far the second biggest number I have accumulated over the past 20 years. The biggest (just over 8,000) was the year of our first cruise and our trip to Alaska. I had just acquired my first “full frame” Nikon DSLR, and I took many photos during the Alaska trip (too many).
THE COVID Pandemic of 2020-2021 put a serious damper on things for all of us. I don’t think we are alone in our sentiment that we could not wait to get back out there. We started “gently” in October-November of 2021. This year we hit the ground running, with 3 cruises, a 20-day land-based trip to Portugal; and I made a week-long trip to Maine in April to photograph lighthouses. I also spent some time kicking around my “backyard,” here in the Tampa Area. I will post some “highlight” photos of each trip. There were so many. As always, they can all be seen at my photo website,LightCentricPhotography.com.
IN JANUARY, we took a cruise in the western Caribbean. This one wasn’t a long cruise, but it marked our first time in the Caribbean in several years. It was also our 4th trip on what has become a favorite ship: The Celebrity Reflection. It was fun, and relaxing. We made stops in Nassau, Bahamas; Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Belize City, Belize. Interestingly, all but one (Belize City) were on small islands off the mainland of these countries.
OUR FIRST port of call was Nassau, Bahamas. I didn’t do a huge amount of photography during this cruise, but I was trying out a new “travel” camera system, so I did carry it around and make a few images. My expectations were not high. I was mostly checking it out for usability and image quality (more on that later). There were at least 5 cruise ships in the port, including The Disney Fantasy, Royal Caribbean’s Fantasy of the Seas, and two Carnival Cruise Line ships. Busy port.
THE NEXT stop was Cozumel, Mexico. A place I had never been to. We did not plan any excursions at all on this cruise (a bit unusual for us, but perhaps less so in the Caribbean). Our “plan” was to get off the ship at each port, walk around a bit, and then re-board. This cruise was really more for the cruise ship atmosphere than anything else. I am sure the beaches, snorkeling, diving and those kinds of beach-sports activities are wonderful in Cozumel. As far as the cruise port and immediate vicinity is concerned, I don’t care if I never see it again. There are vendors in every port in the Caribbean, both in the port area itself, and usually in other parts of the city. I have been to many ports in the Caribbean. The vendors are pretty forward and vocal. But usually if you politely say: “no thanks,” they move on. Not in Cozumel. They were aggressive to the point of harassment. They just would not leave us alone. I couldn’t wait to get away. Ironically, I did buy a T-shirt in Cozumel (one of the few times I have bought anything on any cruise other than food). 🙂
BELIZE WAS just kind of underwhelming. I think I only processed two shots from there (one of which, it shouldn’t shock you, was the local Sen’or Frog “monument”). In Roatan we didn’t even get off the ship (that is probably the first and only time we haven’t at least walked off and looked at the onshore activity. I was able to make some shots from the ship and with some cropping, make them look a bit “nicer.” I am really not trying to be elitist here. I think there is plenty to do there, if you do your homework before you leave (and we really didn’t on this one). I also think getting to know the people, island and culture would be interesting and fun. But it looked very run-down where we docked, and I don’t think just getting off and walking around was really going to gain us anything. If we ever went back, I would certainly want to find some kind of tour. I really would have liked to do something related to the cigar-making industry, but I think that is mostly done on the mainland of Honduras. My take-away from all of the western Caribbean stops was that they were very beach, snorkel or diving-oriented. I have a friend (who is apparently more adventurous than me) who did Roatan’s version of “Hop-on-hop-off busses” (by his description, “ancient, recycled Toyota mini-vans with doors removed”) and took a river boat to a Mayan Ruin in Belize. Maybe we should have planned a little better. 🙂
IN MARCH, one of my sisters (one of 5 sisters and a brother) and her husband came to Florida to “thaw out” (they live in Traverse City, Michigan, where we all grew up) for about a week. They did their own thing part of the time, but we did a few things together, too. Have you ever noticed that when people visit, you tend to go places and see things locally that you either do not do, or never have done? St. Petersburg, Florida has a small, but very cool glass/glass-blowing art museum. We visited it one day, and because I knew it was inside, I took only my Samsung S21 Smartphone. I have remarked numerous times here that – for myriad reasons – smartphone cameras are “not ready for prime time” for most serious photographers. But I have also noted that I am impressed with them and for me they work particularly well in an indoor setting with challenging lighting. I made a few images I liked. I even had some fun playing with a couple to make a composite.
IHAVE had coastal Maine on my horizon for years now. In 2009, my buddy, Rich and I and our wives spent a week in October in Bar Harbor. Our primary destination was Acadia National Park, but we spent a fair amount of time driving to other spots in the area. I got my first glimpse of the Maine Coast that year, as we photographed several Lobster Fishing harbors and the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. These are my kinds of landscape scenes and I really wanted to get back. Having now finally done it in 2022, I want to go back again soon. I have posted only a couple here. There are many more images, including 5 lighthouses and several lobster harbors on my Maine Galleries,here.
TIMING IS everything. Rich works for a company in Michigan that owns a subsidiary company based out of Freeport, Maine (very near Portland). He travels there frequently, and I “piggybacked” on one of his trips (he worked earlier in the week and then took a few days off) and our base of operation was in Portland. But the only time we could mesh schedules was in April (May or October would have been preferred, because of Spring blooms and/or foliage). But we made the most of it. Because of the time of year, we knew our best bet would be to concentrate on lighthouses. And fortunately, there are some really picturesque light houses along mid-coast Maine. We also knew there would be some limited opportunities to shoot lobster harbors.
WEATHER WAS not our friend that week, for the most part. That is unusual for me. I seem to be blessed with good weather most of the time. This trip yielded mostly overcast to cloudy skies, which make photography much more challenging. But there was really only about one half-day complete rainout, and so we got out and took advantage of what we did get. And with what I think is the most photogenic light of the group, at Pemaquid Point Light, we lucked out one afternoon. It had rained all morning and had been cloudy with some showers the balance of the day. We had planned to head back to Pemaquid just to see what happened. Our weather apps predicted partly sunny by late afternoon to early evening. Eventually, we could see signs of clearing to our west. But temperatures were also dropping. This created fog at the seashore, which is a double-edged sword. We could either get some “cool” foggy images, or it would be completely “socked” in. We would see. As we pulled into the parking lot, we could hear the waves pounding (which was quite different from the still, but cloudy morning when we were there a day or two before). And then, almost suddenly, the cloud cover broke and late afternoon blue sky and sun pierced through. We got some great images of the lighthouse and reflection. I also made some nice images of the violent wave break, down on rocks we had climbed on the prior morning.
JUST BEFORE I left for my Maine Trip, our friends and neighbors, Bruce and Joyce, invited us to join them on a 20-day trip to Portugal later that Spring. Portugal was one of the few significant countries in Mediterranean Europe that we had never been to, and with our love for travel, we jumped at the opportunity. Flying into Lisbon on May 18, we spent the next 4 days there. Our hotel was right in the center of the Baixa (a low, flat part of Lisbon – probably the only flat part, LOL – kind of a valley between two mountains). Our hotel was a perfect location, within easy walking distance to many of Lisbon’s popular spots. Out our front door was a grid of walking-only streets. During the afternoon and evenings, there was outdoor restaurant seating, which we frequently availed ourselves of. During the day and at night, the streets were busy. In the mornings, they were often nearly deserted. Nearby, there were plazas and fountains, and the riverfront. Of course, I was out every morning. Again, so many images. Shots of intimate small street settings, Towers. And the Jacaranda Trees were in their glorious purple bloom everywhere. See many more very cool Lisbon images on my LightCentricPhotography photo site, here.
LIKE MANY European cities, Lisbon is very mass-transit oriented. Probably the most popular of their public transportation vehicles is their well-developed tram system. This includes the rather well-known “Tram 28” which makes its circuit through many of the city’s most popular areas. All-day and multiple day (often combined with other transportation forms like subway and bus) fares are available at really reasonable cost. It is a good way to see central Lisbon. The only downside is that if you do so during the main hours of the day, it may be very difficult to get back on if you get off. We waited in line for about 4 trams before we were able to get on one at the beginning. Then, they fill them up. But a fun and interesting ride, anyway.
DURING OUR stay in Lisbon, one day we traveled out into the eastern part of Portugal, to Sintra. It is best known for its two famous Castles, Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. Unfortunately, our tour did not include (and we did not know better) the Moorish Castle. I have vowed that on the next trip to Portugal we will go back there. But Pena Palace is pretty spectacular and very colorful. Again, my one image here does not do it – or the area – justice. To see the rest of the Sintra and Pena Palace shots, gohere.
FROM LISBON, we traveled North to Porto, (probably the “namesake” of Portugal, and one of the most photogenic cities in Europe, in my view). This city is special to me on a number of levels. First, I fell in love with “old city” feel. I also loved the food. But most of all: the photographic spots there! Because we were there for so long, I felt comfortable going off and doing something just for me on this trip. 🙂 I found a nighttime photo walk in Lisbon and signed up for it. It was a good outing and we did some pretty nice photography. It was very reasonable in cost. But probably the best thing that came from it was our guide’s suggestion that I contact another photo-tour guide in Porto and spend a day with him. It was my good fortune that he had a time available for me – and that I was his only customer that day! He took me to spots that I may never have found on my own, and certainly not within the time frame of a couple days. What a day. Perhaps my best city photographs ever. I think that, among other things, has convinced me That Porto is perhaps my favorite European city (maybe tied with Barcelona). Choosing a favorite is impossible. So again, I encourage you to look at allmy Porto Photographson my LightCentricPhotography photo site.
WE MADE a couple side-trips from Porto, including the Douro River Valley, and Aveiro.
THE SECOND night we were in Porto, I walked down to a researched site about 10 minutes from our hotel, to set up and shoot a nighttime image of Porto, along the Douro River, with one of its prominent bridges. I would like to get back there someday earlier and try to make a sunset image. But this one will have to do for now.
WE SPENT another 4 days there, before heading south. On one of those days, we traveled out to the famed, Douro River Valley, where Port Wine was originally made, and where many of the grapes are still grown. The large, famous Port makers have mostly moved closer to Porto. As you can see from my gallery, The Douro Valley is spectacular.
MY WIFE and I also traveled by train one day to nearby Aveiro. Once known for its fishing industry, and its unique and colorful, gondola-style boats, which were used to gather seaweed brought in for fertilizer for its farm fields, Aveiro today thrives primarily on tourist trade and the local university. Down near the waterfront you can take one of the above boats for a cruise around the canal. The waterfront itself is fronted by some wonderful, art nouveau buildings. It was a short walk from the very modern railway station and there were some very colorful photographic sites. You can a few more of my Aveiro shotshere.
WITH A stop in the ancient walled city of Evora for two nights, we then finished our amazing time there in the Algarve (a pretty popular and even famous ocean beach area) in Lagos, Portugal. Evora was once the center of Roman and then later, Ottoman control of the region which eventually became Portugal. There are ancient castles, churches, a wall surrounding the old city (our hotel was inside the walled city), a huge aqueduct, and many examples of the architecture of the times. See more Evora pictureshere.
THE ALGARVE is a region in the south of Portugal, that mostly borders the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. Particularly along the southern tip of the peninsula, there are several very popular beach communities. Tourism and summer residents are a large part of the economy there, but there is also fishing, agriculture and other related vocations that contribute to the economy. It is so very different from what we saw in Lisbon and Portugal. But picturesque, if not touristy, and very fun. And the seafood was wonderful. The rest of my Algarve Pictures are inthis gallery.
THE PHOTOGRAPHIC opportunities in Portugal (especially Porto, in my opinion) were as good as I have ever experienced. We haven’t done a lot of extensive land-based trips, so this was an uncommon experience for us. And for me, a welcome change to the travel routine. The one real negative for me with cruising – as a photographer – is that you only very rarely get to experience a location in the best light (early morning, late afternoon-evening) and almost never at night. Shooting cities at night can be pretty fun for a photographer. Here, I knew there would be several such opportunities, and some pretty nice landscape shots. I was not disappointed, and I am certain there will be another visit to Portugal in my future!
AS WE have customarily done since moving to Florida, we spent 2 weeks back in Michigan visiting family and friends during the 4th of July holiday. I don’t usually spend much time “behind the lens” on these trips. But this year, my sister and brother-in-law took us on a drive to the Lake Michigan Lakeshore – some of Northern Michigan’s prettiest scenery along Lake Michigan and some inland lakes. One of our stops that day was the Point Betsie Lighthouse on Lake Michigan. In my view, not one of the most photogenic of lighthouses, which we were at in rather harsh lighting conditions, I still made a few images.
WE WEREN’T done yet. Not by a long shot. At the beginning of September, we left for Amsterdam. We were scheduled to cruise the Baltic Sea on the Celebrity Apex. A “makeup” cruise of sorts. In 2020 we were scheduled for a cruise in Iceland, Ireland and the U.K. Covid shot that one down and we then went through a series of 3 or 4 “re-bookings,” one after another, they cancelled as Covid hung on longer and stronger than the world had anticipated. This one finally “took.” It actually had me kind of excited because the overnight stop was St. Petersburg, Russia. What photographer wouldn’t be excited at that prospect? [Warning: soapbox speech 🙂 ] In the past century, we have had two narcissist, power-hungry, and just downright insane characters who fancied themselves “world leaders.” Both obsessed with nothing but their own power. Neither had any common sense, sense of morals or decency. One of them was the prime mover in perhaps the worst and least – justified war in the world’s history (certainly modern history). Thankfully, (though only after much horrible death and destruction, including the attempted extermination of a whole race of people), the first one is dead (presumably at his own hand in the face of defeat in WWII). The other one is – to the world’s detriment – still alive. Much of the world saw, after the fact, the horrible atrocities Hitler wrought, but confoundingly we either cannot see history repeating itself, or we are just too complacent to address it. Vladimir Putin is, in my (ever so 🙂 ) humble opinion, Hitler reincarnated. The parallels are stunning. I ask myself every day how one man can have so much evil influence worldwide? [O.k. I’ll climb down off the soapbox]. Needless to say, St. Petersburg was scratched from the agenda after Putin’s War began.
WE WENT anyway, even though nearly 50% of cruisers on this one cancelled. Yeah, St. Petersburg was a big deal. But not enough to cancel a cruise that turned out to be a pretty interesting part of the world. We spent a couple days in Amsterdam, and then cruised up into the Baltic, stopping in Germany, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, and Denmark, before returning to Amsterdam. Amsterdam had a kind of “been there, done that” feeling to me as far as photography was concerned. We did some really interesting historical tours though. One of the most impressive parts of the beginning of that cruise was the sail away through the northern passage from Amsterdam out to the Atlantic. I expect to see windmills in Amsterdam. The old-fashioned kind. But I was surprised at the number of modern wind turbines around the Netherlands (and other parts of the Baltic).
UR FIRST stop was in the northern part of Germany, in a seaside, beach-vacation town of Warnemunde. We had no high expectations from this stop, and I think the best photos were right from the top deck of the cruise ship. There are just a few other “Warnemunde” imageshere. We cruised northeast across the Baltic over the next couple days, and landed next in Helsinki. One of the really fun aspects of cruising for us has been meeting new friends from all around the world. In 2019, before the world shut down, we met two fun couples from the northern part of England. We spent some time with them during the week, both on and off shore, and have kept in touch. This time, we met several more couples from the U.S. and Canada. One of the really fun couples is Mike and Elaine, from upstate New York. We spent a fair amount of time with them, also. I had breakfast nearly every morning with Mike. We actually have plans to cruise with them again in February, 2023 in the Caribbean. In Helsinki, neither of us had hard plans, so we got off the ship together and boarded the Helsinki “Hop on – Hop Off” bus (which stopped right in the cruise port, just steps away from the ship). We had a fun day. Helsinki is geographically fairly small and I think we probably saw most of it from the bus. We only got off right down in the downtown area, where most of the historical sights were. In my research, I learned that Helsinki was probably going to be the closest we would get to a St. Petersburg experience. Czar Alexander had a fondness for Helsinki after the Russian occupation and authorized some pretty extensive building, including Senate Square and the Helsinki Cathedral. There is also a beautiful Russian Orthodox Cathedral nearby. The waterfront is fun and impressive. I made just a few nice Helsinki images, which can be seenhere.
THE REPLACEMENT port for St. Petersburg was the medieval town of Visby, on a small island which is part of Sweden, called Gottland. We took a walking tour through the old walled city, learning some history, and seeing some very old buildings. It is a pretty and photogenic city, as can be seen in my Visby Gallery.
WE NEXT sailed to Tallin, Estonia. Tallin is a small, walled medieval city. It is known as the oldest such city in the Baltic. It is unique in that it was at one time two separate walled cities that abutted each other so closely that the walls formed a narrow walkway between them. The inhabitants did not trust each other, and gates were closed during the night. Estonia was occupied by Russia (and later the USSR) for many years, and the Russian influence can be seen there. Estonian Citizens are also very independent and proud of their own heritage. Tallin was once an important and strategic port on the trade routes (an important part of The Hanseatic League). Today, it is a favorite vacation and nightlife spot – especially for the Finns and Swedes. There was a lot to photograph there, as you can see from the Estonia gallery here, on my website. The Russian Orthodox Church is probably the most impressive church I have ever photographed. There were many other good photographic opportunities here, as you can see from my Estonia Gallery.
IN PLACE of the overnight in St. Petersburgh, Stockholm became our overnight destination. But even that changed, as, during our stay in port, the ship captain announced that we would be leaving port in the early evening the night before to avoid some bad weather conditions (so we missed our overnight – and our visit to the ABBA museum). One thing I didn’t realize prior to the cruise was that the sail into Stockholm from the Baltic involves a narrow waterway that it takes several hours to navigate. I think that was the highlight of Sweden! We got to see much of rural Sweden with some pretty nice landscape opportunities from high up vantage point of the upper ship deck. As you might guess, I spent a good amount of time on the upper deck for the sail in and back out. My numerous shots can be seen in mySweden Gallery.
STOCKHOLM ITSELF is a major city, with very large, impressive municipal buildings and an old medieval part of the city that was very touristy and crowded. My favorite photographic subject in the city was the Riddarholmen Cathedral.
THE FINAL port was Copenhagen, Denmark. If I were “king of the (Celebrity) world,” I would have made Copenhagen the overnight stop. A bit like Helsinki, Copenhagen is a compact and very walkable city. And it has some wonderfully photogenic buildings, as well as a great waterfront. We had arranged a walking tour with our friends Mike and Elaine. It started fairly early in the morning, so we took a taxi from the ship into the downtown area, where we met our guide. After spending a few hours with her, we did a bit more walking and exploring on our own, including climbing (thankfully mostly by elevator) into a tower that gave us a great panoramic view, including the cruiseport and our ship. I thought the port area was also very photogenic and made a few images from the ship as we came into the harbor in the nice morning light. You can see my Copenhagen images here. There was a great Royal Palace Compound, the Government Palace, a University and Churches. I went there with one spot high on my agenda: Nyhavn. You can see from the photo why. I would love to go back there at night.
WE STILL weren’t done. 🙂 We had made plans earlier in the year to go on a cruise with some family members. Some of them had never been in Europe, or parts of the Mediterranean before. Some had been some places, but not others. Having been to the area at least three other times, there was a lot of familiarity for us. But there is always something different; a different spin; a different agenda, and different photographic opportunities. We made the best of some pretty great spots. We started in Rome, where we spent a few days before boarding the Celebrity Edge in Civitavecchia. We then cruised to La Spezia, Cannes, Toulon (Provence), Barcelona, Sardinia, Sicily, and Naples. On our return to Civitavecchia, we flew to Venice for a few more days, before returning home. Whew! Long, and at points exhausting trip. Photographically, there were some really high points!
ROME IS a city we had been to two times before. But each time, only for the day. Having the luxury to stay for 3 nights in a VRBO right in Rome was special. And it meant I would get out in the morning light. I did not get any nighttime shooting in there, though. But during the days we got to see the Vatican (perhaps because of post-Covid and maybe the early morning tour, we got a much more intimate view of the place – on our last visit there were shoulder to shoulder crowds everywhere we were in Vatican City). We also had a much more thorough tour than our previous walk-through on our own, of the Roman Forum and the Coloseum. On the day we arrived, our driver took us to a couple impressive spots, including a fountain we had never seen before. And, of course, the Trevi Fountain (that was every bit as crowded as it was on our first visit). Having spent 3 plus days there, it would be impossible for me to choose a photo or two that would be “representative.” And everyone has seen the Colosseum, The Vatican, The Trevi Fountain, the Royal Palace, and the Roman Forum. All my images of Rome, including a number of new ones from this trip are inthe Rome, and Vatican Galleries, on my photo website. The image here is just a very short walk from our VRBO, taken just after sunrise one of the mornings we stayed there. It is probably my favorite Rome image.
IWAS “laying in the weeds” for La Spezia. On our Mediterranean cruise in 2019, we had stopped in La Spezia. I knew about Cinque Terre back then, but I really wasn’t prepared to do it justice. And to add to that, we had a mostly rainy day. I got to just one of the 5 villages (Manarola). But it was a learning experience. Among other things, we learned about the commuter train from La Spezia through Cinque Terre, stopping at all 5 of the villages. There is an all-day ticket for 18 Euros. The time between stops is between 5 and 15 minutes. It is possible to do several (maybe all) of the villages in a long day. With a large group (we had 6) it is not always easy to get organized and going. Especially without a tour or specific plan. And especially when all in the group aren’t especially early risers. So, I made it known to everyone that I would be off the ship as soon as we were cleared and would meet them in one of the villages once they got going. That worked for me. I got to photograph what I wanted of 3 of the 5 villages, which I had concluded were the most photogenic of all: Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Vernazza. Those images can all be seen inmy Cinque Terre Gallery. The consensus of photographers whose accounts I read was that Manarola was the best of the 3 to photograph. I don’t know that I would agree. It is certainly photogenic. It is also, by far, the easiest of the three to get to, with the train station being very close to “the action.” And I do think it would be the village of choice to stay in for an overnight or two. But I really likedRiomaggiore!
CANNES, OUR next port, is supposed to be a playground for the rich and famous. It seems like that is a common theme along this stretch of the Mediterranean known as the French Riveria. But we didn’t spend any time in Cannes, but instead 4 of us took a train to Monaco, where we walked to the Monte Carlo Casino. We had been in the Casino before, but it was still interesting to walk around, though we did not gamble. In the end I think we all mostly enjoyed strolling along the avenue leading up the casino and along the waterfront. We stopped for probably the nicest lunch we had during the entire trip.
THE NEXT day, we docked at the port of La Seyne-sur-Mer in Toulon, France. About the only thing memorable about Toulon is that it is in the heart of Provence. Our private guide that day said that he was one of only two who would drive all the way to La Seyne-sur-Mer, because it was so out of the way. We were fortunate that he would, because he took us on a really great tour. Years back we had docked at Marseilles (no doubt a more convenient port for passengers and guides). We started out in a nearby National Park with some stunning views from up in the mountains, down over the riviera. We went to Aix-en-Provence (we had been there before in 2014, but the others had not). It is another beautiful old city with fountains, piazzas, churches and majestic buildings. We had lunch there and then headed back toward our ship. On the way we stopped at the medieval village of LeCastellet, a quiet, charming little village tucked up into the mountains. My Provence Gallery showcases a few of the images I have made in the Provence Region, including Aix-enProvence and LeCastellet. Perhaps the coolest photo-op I had in 2022 was the “right time – right place” shot of rock climbers preparing for their rappel down the mountains in the National Park.
OUR NEXT stop was Barcelona, Spain. We have been to Barcelona a handful of times now, staying a few days each time. It is one of my favorite European cities (Porto, Portugal, being the other). But we had seen much of the city already. On our last visit, we had a tour to the nearby Montserrat Monastery and a winery that was cut short because of a Catalonian demonstration. We wanted to finish it, so my wife and I left the others to their own designs in Barcelona and returned to Montserrat: mountains northeast of Barcelona. It was a nice day. It started out quite foggy, but as our morning progressed, the sun broke through and I made what I think is a very nice photograph of the mountains behind the monastery.Montserrathas its own gallery on my website.
AFTER BARCELONA, we went to a place we had never been to; Sardinia. A part of Italy, it, like so many of the European distinctive regions, has its own history, language and culture. It seemed to us that food was a big regional thing in this part of Italy. The next day we would be in Messina, Sicily and my wife and I took a food tour on our own. I didn’t make any real memorable images in either place this time, though I did post a few photos in the Sardinia Gallery on my website.
THE FINAL stop on our cruise was Naples, Italy. Again, we have been in port at Naples multiple times. One of the reasons it is a very popular cruise ship stop is its proximity to so many sought after sites in the area. From Naples we have been to the Amalfi Coast two times, and to the Isle of Capri. But the other big event is the ruins of Pompei and Herculaneum. We had not been to either and this was a long, but fun day visiting them. Each has its own gallery with many photographs in myItaly Galleries. I included the Pompei image here because of the classic clouds in front of Mount Vesuvius. These ancient, but sophisticated, civilizations are spectacular, and the preserved ruins include homes, shops, restaurants, displaying impressive stonework and mosaics. They are rivaled only – in my experience – by the ruins of Ancient Ephesus, in Turkey.
VENICE IS another incredible European city that we have been to multiple times. I have often described Venice as “eye-candy” for the photographer. On this trip, I concentrated less on shooting everything in front of me and more on some of the little things – as well as enjoying the city with our friends who had not been there. As always, I made a few images. You can see all my Venice images in the Venice Gallery on my photo website.
YOU WOULD think that would have been enough. But there would be one more fun and successful adventure. When we moved from Michigan to Florida, in stages, over the last 10 years, I learned that an old high school classmate was an avid photographer, and a 30-plus year resident of Tampa. We touched based a couple times and vowed to get together to do some photography. Finally in early December, knowing the city would be dressed up for the holidays, I reached out to Mark, and we ultimately got together – him being my local guide – to make some really good images of the Miami Skyline. It was fun, and we plan to do it again soon – somewhere in our area. I just set up aTampa Galleryin the past few days, with many more of these nighttime skyline images. Hope you’ll check them out and enjoy them. And I would also encourage you to check out Mark’s work here.
WELL. THAT’s my year in pictures. The images shown here are not necessarily my “best” nor by any stretch of the imagination, all of my take for 2022. They are meant to show what I had to work with. I would be honored if you will go to my LightCentricPhotography photo site, peruse some of the galleries, and leave a comment or two. I am very thankful for a robust, healthy (in spite of the Pandemic), and very full year of travel and photography. I wish all a successful and Happy New Year!Good shooting to all you photographers out there.
[On Monday, we begin 2023, flying to Cape Town, South Africa, for a few days and then boarding the Oceania Nautica, for a cruise “around the horn,” so to speak. On returning later this month, I will resume our 2022 experiences, with the Baltic Cruise series. Hope you will hang on. Stay tuned.]
THE NEXT scheduled port was Helsinki, Finland. But first, we had another day at sea. Our ship, the Celebrity Apex, was “new” to us. The second in the “Edge” class (there are now 3 of them, the 3rd being the Celebrity Beyond, with a 4th under construction) line, it was essentially identical to the “Edge” which we had cruised on in the Mediterranean in 2019. The only differences that I could perceive were some of the sculptures and the addition of the Craft Social Bar.
it occurred to me that some of the things around the ship might lend themselves to – well – “playing” with the fisheye lens
WHEN I changed up to the Olympus m4/3 setup, I picked up a third-party, inexpensive manual, 7mm wide-angle lens (14mm 35mm equivalency). I have a similar one for my Sony gear, which I use for extra-wide landscapes and some night shooting. I carried the new Olympus-fitted lens with me in Portugal in June, for some street and architectural shooting. I didn’t do my homework. 🙂 The lens was essentially the same as the Sony-fitted lens, including the manufacturer. So I thought (or perhaps better said: “didn’t think). The m4/3 7mm is a “fisheye” lens. The Sony-fitted one is not (wide lenses that are corrected for distortion are known as “rectilinear.” I have a rectilinear wide-angle lens for the Olympus now 🙂 ). I had a “fisheye” lens years back for my Sony NEX-6, just to play with. The fisheye creates round distortion. Substantial distortion. When I got back from the Portugal trip, I spent a lot of time in perspective correction (more than I think it is worth). I replaced it with a rectilinear wide zoom. Much better. There is still distortion (a completely “flat” rectilinear lens is all but impossible to create, and the engineering and technology makes them very expensive – especially if you are looking for branded and autofocus lenses). But the fisheye was cheap, so I kept it. I thought (I still think so) it might be fun for some “creative” shooting. As I was packing for this cruise, it occurred to me that some of the things around the ship might lend themselves to – well – “playing” with the fisheye lens.
IN THE deck image above, you can see the difference between the perspectives of these two lenses. They are not identical in focal length, but as close as I have. The fisheye is 7.5mm and the rectilinear is shot at 9mm. You can see that just that 1/5mm difference includes a lot more in the photo. But if you don’t like the distortion, by the time you correct it in post-processing it may even show less in the image. I don’t think I would be disappointed in either of these images from a perspective standpoint (as long as you accept that one is clearly distorted from reality). The only thing I am slightly “bothered” by is the sea/horizon. I would probably play around in post and see if I could level that up. Tilting a fisheye lens can either ameliorate or exacerbate the inherent distortion in the lens, depending on circumstances. In the Martini Bar image at the beginning of the post, tilting the camera underplayed the fisheye effect enough that the image is not an unpleasant wide-angle result. But my experience has been that that is unpredictable. Here, I was well back from the subject and that, too, helps.
I TRIED to play around with some other subjects around the ship, but mostly, I am just not “feeling” the results. The image below is kind of reminiscent of those shots you see where the photographer lies down on his back and shoots upward into a tree canopy. interesting. But no “wall-hanger.” Lots of blue space. And check out that horizon on the ocean in this one.
ONE THING I have observed is that this kind of lens is best if it is extremely close up (in the image below, I cropped my feet out of the bottom), or back far enough that the effects of the fisheye are not as pronounced (as in the Martini Bar image). I think there are instances that lend themselves to the fisheye lens – particularly, whimsical subjects – but it is definitely a limited and special purpose lens.
HEW! I got that out of my system. 🙂 Now on to the next port and maybe some better images.