people will be happy to pose for a group shot, especially
at the start of the cruise. The end-of-day light was perfect
for this one. (F4, 80-200mm Zoom-Nikkor.)
© 2002, jack Hollingsworth, All Rights Reserved
If I try to tell you that cruise
photography is hard work, you probably won't believe me. And you'd
be right. It's work...but the "hard" part doesn't
make it. For me it's a combination of work and pleasure, and it's
work with both instant rewards and long-term benefits.
In the interests of full disclosure,
I have to tell you that I often work for cruise line companies, and my
photos are used to promote their cruises. To get the photos I take the
cruises, which range from one-week trips to three weeks-plus, and I enjoy
'em. I've been shooting for cruise lines for close to 20 years,
and I've cruised all over the world, from the Greek Isles to Africa,
Europe to Asia, and of course the Caribbean. My photos are used for the
lines' brochures, ads, annual reports, and web sites.
A lot of my experiences are with the smaller, intimate yacht-like ships
that cater to the high end of the cruise market. They sail at night, and
when you wake up in the morning you're off the ship at seven in
an exotic and picturesque port, and you don't have to be back 'til
eight or nine. Eat dinner aboard ship and tomorrow you'll be at
the next port.
Did I mention how much I like black and white? While I might
pack light on the hardware, I take lots of film. If you're
really into shooting, I'd say budget 10-20 rolls a
day. (F4, 35-70mm Zoom-Nikkor.)
For those of you who like traveling
with your camera--and for the really serious folks who wouldn't
think of traveling without it--a cruise is truly an awesome way to see
and photograph the world. It's travel in the lap of luxury with
lots of photo opportunities in picturesque port cities.
And because these cities are
prime travel destinations, you'll have access to all kinds of resources
that aid photography, like concierges, interpreters, and transportation.
Cruise travel is a golden opportunity to get great photographs.
My assignment is to make the cruise line look good, and to that end my
pictures are almost always taken with an editorial look to them--a lifestyle
look that glamorizes the people, the means of their transportation and
the locations they visit. I'm hired mainly for my ability to portray
the destination, but I'm always looking for that cool angle, that
romantic point of view for all my cruise photos.
The success of my cruise photography depends on my being
able to capture lifestyle imagery. This photo was equal
parts spontaneity and golden afternoon light. (F4, 50mm
Which is not to say that I
don't take pictures of the staterooms--I do, but they are a small
part of what I do. And when I photograph them, I'm especially interested
in capturing the details that indicate the level of class and luxury of
the cruise ship.
So what's the difference in having a ship as my base of operation?
Does it affect how I work and what I carry? Yep, it sure does. First thing,
I probably pack a little lighter when I'm on a cruise assignment
simply because staterooms are smaller than hotel rooms--though I have
been in some pretty small hotels! Another thing to consider is that you're
probably going to be buying a lot of things along the way on the cruise,
so you want to come aboard as light as possible.
I cruise with two camera bodies, four or five well-chosen lenses, two
flash units, and my carbon-fiber Gitzo tripod, all stashed in or strapped
to my big Lowepro bag. Sometimes I'll even take my Mamiya RZ67 as
well as my Nikons. For some reason I'll just decide that today's
a 6x7 day rather than a 35mm day and take the Mamiya ashore for the day's
photography. I can handle the 6x7 as easily as the 35mm, but I'm
not as fast with it, so that may play a part in my decision, depending
on what I'm going to be shooting. I often like having the bigger
film size. If you're shooting travel stock, which I do in addition
to my assignments, you've got to have an edge or an angle that sets
you apart, and sometimes the bigger film size gives me that. After all,
everyone is shooting 35mm all over the global village.
I'm always looking for scale and framing devices for
the ship. Landside perspectives can accomplish both while
carrying the destination message that my assignment is designed
to convey. (F4, 28mm Nikkor.)
Even though the ship moves
mostly at night, there are opportunities for "at sea" images
while the ship's moving, and for those shots I might think about
a faster shutter speed, but that's really a minor point. What does
play a big part is a polarizing filter--it's an absolute necessity
to deepen the sky and the water, whiten the clouds, and eliminate glare.
I don't use a skylight filter, though I do carry a lot of warming
The Ultimate Photo Op
Of course the key point is that a cruise is the ultimate photo opportunity.
You have a cultural access that you really wouldn't have on your
own in a city or two. Just think of all the different choices you have
when your cruise offers a port per day for four or five days or more.
Think about going into a port and having at your disposal 20 or more excursions
to choose from. What I do is think like a guest, like a tourist. I look
at the choices the night before and see what would be cool to shoot and
then take advantage of it.
Chances are you're not
going to devote the same kind of energy that I do. For you it's
a vacation, for me a job, but with all the access a cruise offers, you're
going to have the opportunity to get some memorable photos.