Photographers & Small Ship Cruises – A Natural Fit

The latest issue of Outdoor Photographer (The Landscape Special) features an article from Ralph Lee Hopkins that documents the wild world in cruise expeditions that go to the ends of the earth. Ralph is a National Geographic photographer who can be found on many of the Lindblad Expeditions sailings. THis article is a must read for aspiring nature photographers and those who are wowed by these photos.

Expedition ships are a great platform for photography, but there’s no single “best place” onboard to set up camp. You have to be mobile. What follows is an except from the article on best places to shoot from an expedition ship:

  • While underway at sea, the stern or aft deck is best for photographing seabirds drafting along with the ship. I especially enjoy crossing the Southern Ocean to Antarctica and the dreaded Drake Passage, looking for wandering albatross effortlessly skimming the tops of the waves.
  • For shooting reflections of icebergs, I prefer to be as low as possible at the ship’s bow.
  • In contrast, for shooting patterns in the pack ice and polar bears at a distance, it’s best to be as high as possible on the top deck.
  • But when the whales or bears are close, put me on the rail where I can follow the action.
  • Image-stabilized lenses and a fast shutter speed are important for making sharp images shooting from the moving ship or Zodiac®. Every ship has its own unique motion and vibration. You still can shoot in rolling seas by firing in the troughs between waves when the motion is at a minimum. It’s not uncommon to shoot at ISO 400 or higher if that’s what it takes to get shutter speeds greater than 1/1000 sec.
  • If subjects are at a distance, I use a wide aperture (ƒ/2.8-ƒ/5.6) to maximize shutter speed. When depth of field is needed, I bump up the ISO and stop down to a smaller aperture. With noise-reduction improvement, ISO is now a creative control, so don’t just set it and forget about it. With changing conditions, vary the ISO as you do with the ƒ-stop.
  • Lastly, the polar regions are famous for variable and even stormy weather. In fact, bad weather can be a great time to make images, so be prepared with good foul-weather gear for both yourself and your equipment. Often, the most dramatic light is when the storm is clearing, so dress properly and get out on deck.

View the entire article from Outdoor Photographer »
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