Stern Morning

Crossing the North Atlantic in a straight line, each morning you could watch the sunrise from the stern of the ship. Without this constant, there is little else for orientation.

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Stern Morning
Watching the sunrise from the stern of the ship

Admittedly, getting up early on vacation to watch the sunrise sounds insane. But crossing the ocean on a ship leaves plenty of time to nap throughout the day. Trust me; sleep is not a problem.

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Likewise, in the evening you could see the sunset from the bow, but, at that time it seems you’re always busy getting ready for one thing or another. So early mornings and late evenings are the best time to take pictures on a cruise ship. And that, my fellow travelers, is your cruise ship tip of the day.

Cocoa Beach

Here’s a shot that I took with my iPhone as we left Port Canaveral on the inaugural Atlantic crossing of Symphony of the Seas. Not bad for a two-and-a-half-year-old iPhone.

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Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach from the deck of Royal’s Symphony of the Seas

I was up on the top deck without my camera as we pulled out of port. I wished I had my Sony because there was a lot of hoopla surrounding the first U.S. docking of the world’s largest ship. But, as the old saying goes, the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. In my case, that means the iPhone 7 plus. I think it did a pretty good job.

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Nevertheless, I processed it a little in Skylum’s Luminar, and this is how it turned out. I like this perpendicular perspective of the beach. It’s a minimalist landscape shot, but not too shabby. One of these days I’ll get around to upgrading my iPhone to a new model and get even better pictures.

Cloud Animals

When crossing the Atlantic, we’d see these singular clouds. They’de float by like big animals casting reflections on the water.

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A passenger watches the sunrise in the North Atlantic aboard Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas
Sunrise in the North Atlantic

The clouds change the color of the water surface which plays tricks on your eyes. It looks like the sea has variations of light and dark patches. However, when you’re out in the middle of the ocean, the only thing that changes is the light hitting it. That took me two days to figure out.

seascapes from the gallery

There’s a lot of free time on a long crossing, enough to look up and see what shapes the clouds are making. Between sitting by the pool and sitting at the bar, I did manage to have a little extra free time. In this case, I could see an elephant sitting down with his back to me. But that’s obvious, right?

Dawn on Deck

Every morning the ship’s crew hoses down the deck before sunrise. It’s the perfect time to capture reflections.

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Reflections on a freshly washed deck before sunrise aboard Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas.
Reflections on a freshly washed deck before sunrise

This is another shot where I used the Platypod. Doing so enables me to include the textures of the deck in the composition. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s a slightly unusual perspective that adds a little something extra.

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I took a ton of these types of photos. I would post them all, but that would get pretty boring. Be forewarned though, I will post at least one or two more. But, if you like this kind of thing, then it’s cool, if not, I’m sorry in advance.

Inaugural Docking

Here is a photo as the Symphony of the Seas made its inaugural docking in Miami. Quite frankly, I’ve never seen such hoopla at four o’clock in the morning.

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Inaugural Docking
The inaugural early morning docking of Symphony of the Seas in the Port of Miami

Almost every night while crossing the Atlantic, we’d set our clocks back an hour. So, by the time we arrived in Miami I was wide awake at three. I’m glad I got up because there was quite the commotion taking place. Even before we entered the port, the ship was followed by several drones. Then, as we came in, we were escorted by a tug making these great sprays from its water cannons. It was quite the spectacle, I tell ya.

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After all the celebrations died down, I went back to my cabin and tweeted a version of this image. Shortly after that it was picked up on social media and featured on USA Today. That was kind of fun to see a photo go far and wide so fast. I guess that happens a lot with news photographers. In any case, it was finally time to pack up and get off the ship. Lucky for me I was awake to see a little bit of history in the making.

Morning Starbucks

A state of confusion is normal for me, at least until I have my morning Starbucks. And this where I get it on a ship.

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Morning Starbucks
The eye candy of design and architecture aboard Sympnony of the Seas

There’s a lot to sort out in this image; art, mall, elevators, and a window looking out, to name a few. This is on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. What makes it confusing (at least to me) is that everything is on a different deck. I think they should rename it Skyscraper of the Seas. I’m just saying.

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I took this from deck seven on my way back from a morning walk around deck fifteen. The Starbucks is on five. There are so many decks it’s hard to keep track of where to go, which is why I need a morning Starbucks.

Park View

I suppose these cabins are the equivalent of the apartments that surround Central Park in New York City. Only, this namesake park is floating thousands of miles away.

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Park View
A wide-angle view of Central Park onboard Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas

I used a 12mm wide-angle lens for this shot which it makes the foreground appear bowed. I also used a Platypod to anchor the camera to a railing for a long exposure. This is the first time I’ve not taken a tripod and relied solely on the Platypod. In retrospect, it was a good call.

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These spaces on the boat were designed to resemble neighborhoods. It’s obvious a lot of thought was put into it because, at least for me, that’s what it felt like. You could hang out in a different one depending on your likes. For some reason, this one, surrounded by apartment-like cabins, was the one I hung out in. It created a perfect illusion that, for the length of the cruise, kept reality at a safe distance.

Oscar’s Swells

This simple image is a long (one second) exposure from the side of a ship. These are swells from hurricane Oscar that was over a thousand miles away.

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Oscar's Swells
A one-second exposure of large swells in the Atlantic ocean.

The captain took us south to avoid the worst of it, but for about two days we saw some impressive swells, more massive than these. Even the largest cruise ship in the world will rock in these conditions. The swells hitting the side of the boat sounded exactly like waves crashing on the shore. It was relaxing, and for two nights we slept with the balcony door open so we could hear the soothing sounds.

To make a one-second exposure in daylight, I set the aperture to f40. That’s a tiny aperture, maybe the smallest I’ve ever used. An F-stop higher than 20 does not have a lot of practical uses, but long exposures are one. One second is long enough to make an in-camera motion blur effect without resorting to photoshop tricks.

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Maybe this is a dull image without a central subject. It’s more texture or pattern than a photo. Even so, it reminds me of the gentle sounds the waves made all through the night.

Symphony Sunrise

For a photographer, crossing west over the North Atlantic has its advantages. For one, the sun always rises from the stern. Knowing which way to walk on a ship this big is a good thing.

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Symphony Sunrise
Sunrise over the North Atlantic on RCCL’s Symphony of the Seas

The Symphony of the Seas is such a big ship that at first, it can be difficult to get oriented. The first few days I’d walk to the Windjammer only to find I’d gone the wrong way. But then, walking an extra half mile before hitting the buffet didn’t hurt.

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Another advantage is that the days have twenty-five hours. Each night we would set our clocks back one hour. And because we were sailing during the daylight savings cutover, we had one additional long day. As a result, I found myself getting up earlier each day with enough time to walk to the back of the ship without getting lost.

Water and Clouds

My favorite thing about the trip across the Atlantic was the open sea. For over a week there was nothing but water and clouds.

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Water and Clouds
This is the main sight in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

When we booked the trip, I wasn’t sure what eight days at sea would be like. Now, I would do it again in a heartbeat. The entire time we did not see land, another boat, or a plane. It was an opportunity to detach from all land-based frames of reference.

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On the final day before arriving at Port Canaveral, we began to see planes in the sky and seabirds. It was the first signs that home was not far off. It’s nice to back on the ground, but at the same time, it was nice to have a glimpse of a perspective where all the familiar references were not there.