Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha)

Addo Elephant National Park
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

Iย  THINK maybe we have now had 3 different general cruising experiences. One is what I will call the “sun and fun” experience. To us, that means a Caribbean Cruise. They are almost always warm and sunny. It seems that all the many stops (more are being added yearly) in the islands of the Caribbean have a certain “sameness” to them. A kind of “Bob Marley” vibe. We have done a few fun excursions around the islands, but generally they are all the same. I generally get off the ship at each stop and look for photographic opportunities. Mostly, I find colorful, Caribbean subjects, ala Jimmy Buffet’s “Boats, Bars and Beaches.” That’s not a bad thing. I have made some nice and fun images in the Caribbean. We also spend a lot of time on the ship, in the sun, around the pool, eating and drinking, and generally soaking up the warm sunshine. Since we bought our home in the Tampa Bay, Florida area, the allure of those cruises has worn off somewhat. Then there is what I will call the “see the world cruise.” This has generally translated into The Mediterranean, Europe, the British Isles, and the Baltic for us, so far. I know we will venture further in the years to come, seeing parts of Asia and Hawaii and Polynesia, and New Zealand and Australia. The goal, here is to see new things. The “wonders of the world,” so to speak. It has branched my photography out into travel, street shooting and architectural photography. At the same time, it has afforded continued landscape, nature, and even occasional wildlife opportunities. Photographically, it is more rewarding that the first category.

Addo Elephant National Park
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

THIS TIME, though, we discovered a new category, all its own: Africa. What do you do for 16 days in South Africa? Some of the time was spent in Cape Town, and the rest on a cruise ship making 5 planned port stops around the South African Peninsula. After experiencing it, and spending the time there, there is really only one answer. You do wildlife viewing. There is really not much else to do. Perhaps an unfair characterization. But probably an accurate generalization.

Whenย it comes to wildlife viewing, the African Continent is second to none

Addo Elephant National Park
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

FOR SURE, there are some spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean on the eastern seashores of South Africa. That doesn’t – in my view – make it a unique travel destination. We saw incredible seacoast views in Portugal and in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. We have seen them again, in the Baltic Sea, and I have no doubt that our views of Norway’s fjord’s in June will be nothing less than spectacular. We have pretty great seascapes of all types on the shores of both the Atlantic and the Pacific right here in the U.S., and our Great Lakes, as well. Don’t get me wrong. The South African water views are worth seeing. They just bolster the fact that the world is an incredibly beautiful place. But they are not the reason to travel to South Africa. Likewise, though we didn’t get far into the interior of the African Peninsula, we are told that Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River (actually in Zimbabwe) are nothing short of spectacular. But are they more spectacular than our own Niagara Falls? Or even some of the “lesser” falls around the U.S. and around the world? Not really. They are not the reason to travel to South Africa. Cape Town is a very cool city, with some pretty interesting features. And the view of Table Mountain in the background virtually everywhere you go certainly adds its own unique quality to the city. We didn’t get to Johannesburg, or the wine regions of Franshoek and Stellenbosch. All have their own charm. No doubt. But at the end of the day, none would top my list of cities or places to visit. That isn’t saying I wouldn’t love to visit them. Just that there are other destinations that have more “draw,” in my view, both historically and photographically.

Addo Elephant National Park
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

BUT WHEN it comes to wildlife viewing, the African Continent is second to none. And not surprisingly, virtually every port of call excursion and activity centered around seeing the animals. In spite of reading and hearing about the phenomena of “The Safari,” I was somewhat ignorant of the rank of this activity among “things to do in Africa.” In hindsight, it is the primary thing to do and is the reason to visit the African Continent. Everything else is secondary. At least, that’s my view of it. While we did have some splendid viewing opportunities, we really didn’t take full advantage of the trip. That is not to say we didn’t immensely enjoy our visit. Nor did we completely miss the viewing opportunities, as the photos here illustrate. But we didn’t take full advantage as we perhaps could have. There were other activities, but they weren’t even a close second to the wildlife “drives.” We spoke to fellow passengers who took a couple of the “city” tours and similar excursions. They were largely underwhelmed. We visited the beach and somewhat famous aquarium in Durban. Really “just o.k.” I’ll give it coverage in an upcoming post. But every single wildlife drive or viewing opportunity was acclaimed by all we spoke to. And they were certainly the highlight of our trip, also. If the opportunity to go back arises, we will arrange a several-day tour of the interior of the continent, including Botswana, and Kruger National Park in northwestern South Africa for wildlife, and Zimbabwe, for Victoria Falls.

Addo Elephant National Park
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

FOR US, the Port Elizabeth stop was all about our wildlife drive. We were fortunate to have met a couple at the beginning of the trip who had room for two more in a six-person tour. We traveled from the cruise port inland to the ADDO Elephant National Park. Our guide, Mike, was very good. Having grown up over in Cape Town, he had taken up the career of tour guide. Mike picked us up just outside the port, where he drove us the approximately 35 miles inland to the park entrance. South Africa’s third largest national park, and said to have the full complement of wildlife, it is really known for its elephant population. It is a natural habitat for these huge animals, and they have been there for many years. But it has not all been good for them. The park was originally established in 1931, as a refuge for elephants. One of the large agricultural products of the area, particularly down along the flatter land adjacent to the Indian Ocean is oranges. But as the orange groves grew and became established, the indigenous African Elephant population, a scavenging herbivore, discovered the plantations and began migrating toward them to feed. They destroyed much of the groves as they foraged. The farmers began to shoot them as a defense of their groves. At one point, the population is said to have dwindled to only 11 remaining resident elephants. In 1931, South African conservationist, Syndey Skaife established the preserve. Fences were erected, creating a perimeter of the park and over time, were designed and re-designed (today they are electrified), with the goal of keeping the elephants inside the preserve, and presumably safe. In later years, Lions and the Black Rhinocerus were re-introduced to the area. Today, there are more than 600 Elephants in the park, along with many other species of wildlife, including Zebra, Wildebeest, Cape Buffalo, Warthog, Hartebeest, Kudu, Springbok, Ostrich and other bird species, to name a few. We were fortunate to see and photograph a number of these. As you can probably see from the images, the elephants were the most impressive.

Addo Elephant National Park
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

WE WERE fortunate during the early part of the day to have a bright overcast sky, conducive to photographing the elephants. As the day wore on, the sun became “hotter,” and the usual challenges of daytime photography ensued. The other challenge was that we had to shoot from inside the vehicle. Park rules prohibit exiting the vehicle or even opening the doors. Distance was also a factor in a number of cases. We learned that Lions and Leopards are mostly active only during the very early and late hours – times we couldn’t be in the park. We did not see any cats. This is one of the reasons I would – as I mentioned above – schedule a more full-on safari if I visited again. They get you out during these early hours and you are pretty likely to spot these big cats.

Addo Elephant National Park
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

Iย  CARRIED my travel rig on this trip. Thankfully, that includes a zoom that reached out to 300m (35mm equivalent). I would have been very frustrated and disappointed without it. It did a decent job, particularly with the large animals like the elephant. But another trip to South Africa would have me making the effort to carry my more serious equipment. The “full frame,” 46mp sensor on the Sony would have made a substantial difference compared to the m4/3 body’s 20mp sensor, and its comparatively small size. As would the higher quality lens. I could have made better, and more detailed crops of some of the more distant animals. If you are a serious photographer and are making a trip to the African Continent, I would seriously consider carrying your best possible gear, and perhaps something even a little longer than 300mm.

Addo Elephant National Park
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

ALL IN all, it was great day, and we not only saw some amazing wildlife that – outside of a zoo – I may never have the opportunity to photograph again, but we also enjoyed the company of some good new friends. Our next stop would be Durban.

Addo Elephant National Park
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

A Day (or two) At Sea and Namibia

Oceania Nautica
Cape Town, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

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 Nautica
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
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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 everyone else 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).

Oceania Nautica
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

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.ย 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.

One of our numerous, friendly and efficient bartenders
Oceania Nautica
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ ). 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.

Leader of the Jazz/Contemporary Combo
Oceania Nautica
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
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THE SHIP 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.”

Tug; Walvis Bay, Namibia
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
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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.

Pink Flamingos; Walvis Bay, Namibia
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
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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.

Pink Flamingo
Walvis Bay, Namibia
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
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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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

Salt Recovery “Mining”
Walvis Bay, Namibia
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
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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.

Salt Recovery and Mining Operations
Walvis Bay, Namibia
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

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.

People in Your Landscape Photos?

Church; Porto, Portugal
I wanted a shot of this Church all alone (and I did make one early another morning), but I like the way the people in this image come together in the square in front of the church to give some “area context”
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
Iย  HAVE shot primarily nature, landscape and other outdoor venues for all the years I have been at this. And for many of those years, I worked hard to get people-free images. Still do some of the time. In popular places, it was not uncommon to sit patiently (or sometimes not so patiently ๐Ÿ™‚ ) waiting for people to clear a scene. Later, the ability to “remove” things from images digitally softened some of the angst. But that doesn’t always work. I found myself still waiting for opportunities where the “offending” body was in a spot that would be easy to remove. And then, of course, that brings on all the “isn’t that cheating?” stuff.

I liked the way the yellow jacket contrasted with the mostly monochromatic image of Buckingham Palace. It pulls the gold gilded statue top too. I waited for her to walk into the frame and then made the image.
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021
All Rights Reserved]

not every national park, scenic view, or iconic location was put there for me and my camera

THERE ARE, of course, still going to be times when you want a pristine landscape shot. Often the best time to do that is very early in the morning, before tourists and even workers are out. Getting up early takes a certain discipline, but every time I do so, I am rewarded. Often with complete solitude. Sometimes with just a lot fewer people around. Another way to get that kind of shot is to shoot scenes and places where there aren’t a lot of people. Places that haven’t been discovered yet. Or places that don’t have tourist appeal. I have found some of my best farm scenes to be places that haven’t been “discovered” yet. I have also learned – unfortunately – that it isn’t a good idea to identify those locations in this day and age. There are a couple now famous scenes in Vermont, for example, that used to see the occasional photographer in the road near them – usually during the fall foliage season. But today, everybody and their smartphone wants to photograph these places, and in addition to large numbers of people, many of them have zero respect for other’s property. Indeed in recent years, some of these once quiet, bucolic scenes have taken on a “carnival” atmosphere that is totally at odds with what drew us to them in the first place.

Sometimes the image is ABOUT the people. This close shot of the entranceway into the Buckingham Palace Grounds would be boring and static without the guard. I was really shooting the guard, not the palace, here.
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021
All Rights Reserved]
PEOPLE IN the scene can often be perceived as a negative. But I also have to remind myself sometimes that not every national park, scenic view, or iconic location was put there for me and my camera. Indeed, (at least before the advent of the smartphone), the vast majority of visitors to these locations are/were probably there just to see the place. And they certainly have every bit as much of a right to do that (even if they are standing in my photo ๐Ÿ™‚ ). Tolerance does not seem to be a popular thing these days, but I still try to practice it.

This is one of my favorite images of London. The two gentlemen engaged in thoughtful conversation makes an otherwise “nice” image of the backside of Westminster Abbey much more interesting, in my view
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021
All Rights Reserved]
IN RECENT years, though, something that I have learned is – especially in my travel photography – putting people (or using the people that are there) in your photos sometimes creates added interest. In addition to scale, they can give perspective, and sometimes create questions. Like what is she looking at? What is he thinking? Or they can help express the pure joy of experiencing one of our worldwide wonders. So, for me the trick has now become how to best position the people that are inevitably there in the image. I have begun to look for those moments. I know I am probably late to the game (but suspect I am still with, or ahead of many of my fellow “nature” photographers). Street photographers often purposely seek out people in their imagery. I have never felt really comfortable engaging people, but I am slowly coming to grips with it. In the meantime, I often try to portray people in the image in a basically incognito way (looking away, or so distant as to not have recognizable face). But other times that is just not possible. And when people are in public, they have a reduced expectation of privacy, so I feel that as long as I am not portraying them in a negative way, it is probably o.k.

Porto, Portugal
I made several images as this woman walked through the frame. I like the way in this one, she appears to hesitate, and you wonder, what is she looking at/for?
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
WHILE INCLUDING people in photographs can be an enhancing factor, I also believe there is a tipping point. I have had times where the venue has been so crowded with people that I have decided not to even shoot it. Sometimes crowds can detract from a shot. Unless, of course, you are trying to depict crowds.

I made this image to illustrate the packed Wine Festival in Evora, Portugal
Evora, Portugal
Copyright Andy Richards 2022
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Iย  DON’T think I have used people in images anywhere more than my recent trip to Portugal. We were in two of the most populous cities in the country and let’s face it: there were bound to be people everywhere. Even early in the season. I think this year is perhaps unusual, as people were pent up from the pandemic, and ready to get out and travel again. For whatever reason, there were a lot of people in Lisbon and Porto in late May and early June.

The line (or “qeue” as they say in Europe) for getting into Lisbon’s popular Belem Tower historical site was long. The lone person standing near the water attracted my attenion. Another one of those “wonder what she is looking at” people images.
Lisbon, Portugal
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
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SOMETIMES PEOPLE and their behavior make an otherwise uninteresting image worth a second look. I was walking around St. Kitt during one of our Caribbean Cruise stops and looking for color and interest. The obviously attractive young woman in this shot caught my eye. If the shot were about her, though, having her walking out of the frame is just not very good composition. As much as it may seem so, she is not the true subject of the image. I had all I could do with the fast moving action and my widest zoom to catch the entire important parts of the scene. But mine were not the only eyes she caught. Do you see it? ๐Ÿ™‚ I couldn’t resist making this one.

Double-Take
St. Kitts
[Copyright Andy Richards 2014
All Rights Reserved]
THE “SELFIE” has become (for better or worse) a common occurrence in these times. There are times when people compromise privacy, safety, and property in there unending quest to produce the best Instagram selfie. But sometimes it is just people trying to capture a memory It certainly speaks of behavior. The gondola scene at Piazza San Marco on Venice is iconic. Most of us shoot it trying to exclude outside elements. I was doing that one early morning – making a motion-blur image of the rocking gondolas. When I arrived, I saw this young woman who I believe was making a selfie with the piazza and St. Mark’s in her background. It gives great human interest to the image, in my opinion.

Piazza San Marco
Venice, Italy
[Copyright Andy Richards 2013
All Rights Reserved]
Iย  HAVE made numerous cruise ship pictures over our years of cruising. I am usually shooting either the landscape, or action on the ship. I am never the only one doing so, though most often it is folks with their smart phones (or even tablets sometimes). I love to make images of a harbor as we enter it and dock. As I was doing so in the very picturesque Cobh, Ireland, I noticed the gentleman below doing likewise. I have gotten smarter about my photography over recent years, and was glad I had the presence of mind to capture the scene, which certainly tells a better story than my “solo” images do.

Cobh, Ireland
[Copyright Andy Richards 2019
All Rights Reserved]
OF ALL the imagery I have made over the years, a substantial majority has been landscape – and of that, more than anything, fall foliage. Mountains, reflections, closeups, barns and farms all make wonderful context. Occasionally, people in the image add color, or interest, or even scale and perspective. I shamelessly confess that I totally “copycatted” the following silhouette image, after seeing a colleague framing it up. But what a great storytelling idea. The photo is another “ho hum” fall foliage image without them.

Hiawatha National Forest Lake
Munising, Michigan
[Copyright Andy Richards 2012
All Rights Reserved]
SOMETIMES STAGING people in an image works. During my trip to Vermont in October, 2021, we were composing and contemplating shooting an uphill Vermont back road, framed with colorful foliage. I made the point that this one needed some interest – a person walking up the road. On of our friends offered to “model,” wearing a bright yellow raincoat I had (which was the brightest “prop” we could find). I think the photo worked well. But when I got home, and reviewed the image on my screen, it occurred to me that red would have more impact. So I made it red. I know. That “cheating” thing again. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pudding Hill Road
Burke, Vermont
[Copyright Andy Richards 2021]
Iย  AM certain that I miss many opportunities to use “models” in my images. I am, by nature, not an outgoing person when around strangers. Again, sometimes, I just get lucky. I was walking in the St. Kitt Cruise port area shooting some of the colorful buildings. This young shop employee asked me out of the blue if I would like her to pose for me. I am no portrait photographer, but I thought this was a kind of fun image that would not have been the same without her in it.

St. Kitt
[Copyright Andy Richards 2014
All Rights Reserved]
AS OFTEN as I get “unlucky” or even annoyed with the people in a scene, sometimes I get lucky. The scene in Rome was interesting enough to capture my attention. But when the young man walked into the shot, it seemed like a case of “right time; right place” for me.

The man in the center of the street gives this image a sense of scale
City Center
Rome, Italy
[Copyright Andy Richards 2013
All Rights Reserved]
LOOKING FOR opportunities often begets opportunities. In case of the photo below, we were on a street art walking tour in Cape Town South Africa in January. While mostly shooting the street art imagery, I am always on the lookout for colorful subjects. And – lately – also for human subjects of interest. Here I found both and couldn’t help but wonder if the conversation was about our group?

 

Cape Town, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

WHILE SOMETIMES, a photo leaves you wondering about the people in the photo, other times it’s just obvious what the person is doing in the photo – and yet still adds interest. This young woman was one of another couple that joined us on the street art walk recently in Cape Town. The focus of the day, of course was the street art itself. Usually in context. But this opportunity presented itself and I liked the symmetry (physical and figurative). There is little doubt in my mind that the inclusion of the photographer adds interest to the already visually compelling subject.

Cape Town, South Africa
Copyright Andy Richards 2023
All Rights Reserved

O

VERALL, I think there is always going to be room in my portfolio and shooting style for both. I will always want to at least try to make “clean” images. Sometimes that means waiting. Sometimes using content-aware processing. But what I have learned is to look for both opportunities. I think both views, for example, of the Pink Street below are interesting. I had to go very early in the morning to get the empty street. But the people in the second image are always there, beginning in the early evening, and by nighttime, the place is packed. That’s reality and if you are going to portray reality, you are going to have people in the picture. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Pink Street
Lisbon, Portugal
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
[Tomorrow, I head to Ft. Lauderdale to board a cruise ship bound for the Caribbean for a few days. When I return, I am going to take the blog in a slightly different direction – temporarily. See you in a couple weeks]

Copenhagen

Langelinie Port; Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
OF THE places we were originally scheduled to stop, the two that held the most interest for me were St. Petersburg and Copenhagen. I have beaten St. Petersburg to death here. But Copenhagen. It promised many of the elements that I find such a draw in my photography. There are colors, reflections, boats and buildings with distinctive architecture. It is a relatively small, and very walkable city. I would have loved to have spent more time there.

Langelinie Cruise Port
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
WE CAME in just as the sun rose, and I was up on the deck, as usual, making images in the nice morning light. I was impressed by the size and activity in the Copenhagen Port (I was to learn, later, that this was just one of several ports in Copenhagen).

Langelinie Port
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]

AS IT was, we had just one day to explore. We had found and booked a walking tour with our friends Mike and Elaine for the day. Our meeting point was in town, and we thought that – though walkable – we would probably have better success taking a taxi. Fortunately, there was a taxi stand just inside the port, near our berth. That turned out to be a good call, as the meeting point was about 2 miles from the ship, near the Copenhagen main library.

Copenhagen Main Library
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
MUCH LIKE the inner cities of many European cities we have visited, there are small cafes and restaurants along every street and on every corner. As always, color attracts me, and I loved the red and white theme of this cafe, complete with red and white checked table-cloths. Also like many European cities – at least those in relatively moderate climates, there are always outdoor tables.

Cafe Sorgenfri
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
WE WERE relatively early this morning, and the city was just waking up. I love the mornings, both for its lack of crowds, and for the great photographic light. Lots of contrast makes shooting sometimes a challenge, but when it is right it is pretty nice. My eye naturally travels to streets like this one, with its cobblestone pavement, and brightly colored buildings beckoning in the distance.

Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
FROM OUR meeting point, we walked to the small square housing Copenhagen University, a quite popular university among European students. From there we walked to Christiansborg Slot (Palace), which is a pretty imposing building. The mainly Baroque styled building is the seat of Danish Government and the Danish Supreme Court. It also houses the Prime Minister of Denmark, and offices of the Danish Monarch. According to Wikipedia, Christiansborg Palace is the only government building in the world that houses all 3 branches of government under one roof. There are also Royal Stables on the bottom floor. The site was home to 2 prior castles, the first one built in the late 12th Century. Both were eventually demolished, and in 1733, King Christian VI began construction of the current castle. Christiansborg was destroyed by fire in 1794, rebuilt in 1803, and again partially destroyed by fire in 1884. It was finally restored again, 23 years later and is essentially the building we see today. We walked through the grounds near the stables, and then out the other side, where we exited onto the street. Later, we would return here on our own after our tour and go to the top of the tower shown here, for some pretty spectacular views of the city (including a shot of our cruise ship, the Celebrity Apex).

Christiansborg Palace
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
Christiansborg Palace
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
 

View From the Tower; Christiansborg Palace
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
Celebrity Apex in Port
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
F

ROM THE front of the palace, we walked back north, across the canal and into the ritzy shopping district. I spotted the original “Flagship” Royal Copenhagen store on one of the street. I wore RC for many years, and still have a bottle of it. At some point, somebody suggested it had a bit of an “old mannish” scent, and I abandoned it. But I kept it, knowing full well I would be an old man someday. Well . . .ย  here we are. Guess it may be time to break that RC out again? ๐Ÿ™‚ We walked back west from the square, toward Nyhavn.

Nyhavn
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
N

YHAVN WAS the main spot I wanted to see in Copenhagen. Running east and west from the old “Kings Square” part of the city out to the main canal which separates the Island of Christianshavn from the mainland, the Nyhavn Canal was dug by hand in mainly by Swedish prisoners of war, in 1660-1675. The canal was intended to accommodate ship traffic with cargo and fish, into the old city. The area was populated with rowdy sailors and known for drinking and prostitution, among other things. One notable fact is that famed Danish writer, Hans Christian Anderson lived in Nyhavn from about 1845 – 1975. The northern, more sunny side of the canal is flanked by the colorful buildings you see in the images, and fronted by small, mainly fishing boats along the jetty. The relatively smooth water surface makes it good for reflections and in spite of the rather late time – mid-day – I was able to produce some reflections. As ships became larger and modes of ground transportation developed over the years, the significance of Nyhavn for these purposes diminished. In the mid 1960s, a movement began to revitalize the area, and in 1980, the streets flanking both sides of the canal were converted to pedestrian traffic only, for the length of the canal. Today, Nyhavn is a popular tourist and nightlife destination. The north side is lined with restaurants and some shops. Our guide was accommodating of my request to walk on the south side, so I could photograph this scene. Given that we were in more or less mid-day sun, it was everything I hoped it would be. I was glad today that I had the 9-15mm lens with me.

Nyhavn
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
OUR GUIDE had mentioned to us earlier in the day that one of the “draws” of Copenhagen is that it is a very walkable city. We could see that. We walked to the end of the Nyhavn canal and turned again northeast. We walked along the main canal. The views across were impressive, including a shot of the Copenhagen Opera House, and some modern architecture housing.

Copenhagen Opera House
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
Modern Architecture Housing
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
WE STOPPED for a drink (included in the tour price ๐Ÿ™‚ ) here and a brief rest, where we had the opportunity to learn more about our tour guide, who is doing this partly to help support her two children and herself. Our next stop was Amalienborg, the home of the Danish Royal Family. Originally built for 4 “noble” families and founded by King Frederick V, this “compound” in the middle of the city is unique. There are 4, identical palaces situated around an octagonal courtyard. The first residence was built by/for Queen Sophie Amalie and is thus known as “The Queen’s Palace.” The other 3 have served over the years as private residences other members of the Royal Family. The view into the courtyard is spectacular, with a fountain at the entrance, and the green-domed, marble, Rococo designed, Frederik’s Kirche (church) in the background. The palace exteriors are “Classical” and the interiors are said to be Baroque (we did not go inside).

Amalienborg Castle
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
Amalienborg Castle
Copenhagen, Denmark
[Copyright Andy Richards 2022
All Rights Reserved]
O

UR TOUR ended shortly afterward, and we walked back to Christiansborg Palace to climb the tower (I make it sound worse than it is. There is an elevator most of the way up ๐Ÿ™‚ ). From there, we found a taxi back to our port. We had no trouble finding the taxi stand. We did have one problem, though. None of the 4 of us had memorized the name of our port (Langelinie). We had about an hour before the all-aboard time. Our taxi driver spoke very limited English. He asked us which port? We all looked at each other with wide-eyes. There were – apparently 5 ports to choose from. We eventually worked it out that it was indeed, Langelinie. Lesson here: ๐Ÿ™‚ Don’t leave the ship without knowing the name of the cruise port! Our trip was almost over. We had one more day at sea, which we would make the most of. In addition to Mike and Elaine (who we are now joining on a Caribbean Celebrity Cruise in February 2023 – just over a week from today), we met a couple from New Jersey, and their friends who got engaged on the cruise. We also met a very nice couple from Canada, who ended up joining us for dinner every night. We had also met Flo and Jim, before the cruise, as they live just 20 minutes north of us here in Florida. We had lots of fun with these new friends. The New Jersey couple were also cigar smokers, and we had a least one more celebratory cigar on the last at sea day. It was a fun cruise and yielded much more photographically than I thought it might. Copenhagen is a place I would love to return to one day!