Cruisin’ For Photo Opportunities;Island Hopping Offers A Variety Of Photographic Subjects

Photos © 2004, Rick Sammon, All Rights Reserved

My friends often call me the "shoot and scoot" photographer. The term refers to the fact that I don't spend a lot of time in one location.

Why am I always on the move? Well, for one thing, I, perhaps like many readers, don't have the luxury or resources to spend weeks or even months in a single location, as do some of my friends at National Geographic. In addition, being a totally hyper New Yorker, I like to move around when I'm traveling, getting a variety of pictures in as many different locations as possible. Pictures that help me tell the story of a trip, including people, places, and things.

Knowing what you now know about me, you can imagine how much I enjoyed a recent seven-day Caribbean cruise on the Constellation, one of the ships in the Celebrity cruise line.

The voyage, which departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico, took me to five tropical island paradises--the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Dominica, Antigua, and St. Thomas. The lush and varied islands provided dozens of landscape, seascape, aerial, and people photography opportunities. The ship itself also offered photographic subjects.

Each night at the ship's The Bar at the Edge of the Earth, I had the opportunity to photograph Cirque du Soleil performers who were especially created by Cirque du Soleil for the Constellation. One night, in the ship's theater, I had the unique opportunity to photograph Olga, one of the major stars of Cirque du Soleil, who twirled and whirled through the air with the greatest of ease.

As I write this column on the deck of my stateroom, I'm burning the second of two DVDs of my trip pictures. It's the last day of the cruise. As the disk spins around in my laptop, memories of the trip are spinning around in my head. I'm thinking about my favorite pictures, post cards, if you will, from each location.

I share them here with you in the hope that you can someday make a Caribbean voyage. I've also included some photography tips that I hope help you capture the magic of the experience.

So, let's cruise!

Dominica--This picturesque tropical island, the only World Heritage Site in the Central Caribbean, draws conservation minded travelers and nature lovers from around the world, thousands a year by cruise ship. Much of the island is covered by rainforest, most of which is inaccessible by road. Don's miss Trafalgar Falls, a highlight of most tours. You can shoot the falls from the observation deck, as I did. Use a tripod and slow shutter speed (at least 1/15 sec) to blur the cascading water. However, busloads of cruise ship people arrive at the same time (I was in one of those groups) and their movement on the deck can shake your camera, resulting in a blurry picture. Therefore, time your shots carefully.

Dominican Republic--Get out into the countryside and avoid the hustle and bustle of the cities and towns. Visit one of the many sugar plantations, where you can see and photograph the harvesting and transportation of the sugar cane. As in many tropical settings, it can be sunny one minute and raining the next. Don't leave your vehicle without a waterproof camera bag or plastic bag for your camera. Try not to include too much sky in your wide angle pictures. It's usually filled with white clouds that can cause an underexposed foreground.

Antigua--The beaches, 365 according to tour operators, and year-round warm weather are the "draws" of Antigua. Some beaches are tourist hot spots. Others are more secluded. I found this beach while driving around the island with a local guide. I'd tell you exactly where it is, but then it might become a tourist hot spot. So if you go to Antigua, get out there and explore the island on your own.

No matter which beach you visit, bring your polarizing filter to darken the sky, whiten the clouds, and reduce glare on the water. To capture the expanse of the peaceful settings, use a wide angle lens.

St. Thomas--After visiting St. Thomas, I think I need to do a Google search to find out if St. Thomas is the patron saint of shoppers. The main port is jam-packed with hundreds of shops selling everything from trinkets to fine jewelry, to rum-and-cokes to fine wine. St. Thomas can be packed with up to eight cruise ships at one time, so the roads and stores can be crowded. Just do the arithmetic: eight ships times +/- 2000 people each!

If St. Thomas is a stop on a Caribbean cruise, hop off the ship and take a helicopter ride around the island and surrounding islands. The scenery is breathtaking. Perhaps more importantly, you'll see that there are peaceful beaches on which to relax and recover from shopping.