Note: all photo galleries on the site now display as Flash Slideshows. To obtain the best view of the images, I strongly advise that you run the slideshow in full-screen mode. To toggle full screen display on you should click this button on the tool bar immediately below the slide show images.
Having earned sufficient brownie points I was fortunate enough to be granted uxorial permission for a trip to the Tees on 8 August. The main point of this outing was to road test my most recently acquired item of photograph equipment, a Sigma 50-500mm zoom. This monster weighs in at around 4lbs and, when hand held, is an excellent means of boosting upper body strength. I had theorised that the extra reach of the 500mm zoom coupled with the 24.3Mp sensor on the Sony A77 would give me a previously unheard of ability to crop into images of very distant ships and I wanted to put this theory to the test. In the event it proved to be correct but I learned several lessons about handling the combination of the camera and the big lens, the first and most important lesson being, never activate the image stabilisation on the lens and that on the camera body at the same time. This cost me quite a few otherwise good images. Secondly, if you are using the lens on a tripod then disable all image stabilisation systems. Thirdly, forget the in-camera cropping facility when using the lens at the 500mm end – it is capable of producing a perfectly adequate 6Mp image but the extra enlargement leads to a degree of camera shake that the image stabilisation can’t handle. Much better to use only the optical zoom and crop at the post processing stage. Finally, the deal works much better in good light than in cloudy conditions or when shooting against the light. Anyway, enough of the technicalities – this was without a shadow of a doubt the best day I’ve had on the Tees in ages. The numbers tell the story without much embellishment – 32 ships in total, 20 new sightings, and 13 movements (6 arrivals and 7 departures). Add to that the fact that, with the exception of a short period in the middle of the day when things clouded over, the sun shone the whole time I was there and I am happy to say that I “got a result”.
As I hadn’t had a chance to try the new camera out around the local stamping ground I thought that Sunday 22 July might be a reasonably good opportunity to give it a go. The weather was good – not something that could be said very often during the course of this rotten summer - and there were ten ships on offer. At least I thought there were ten but it turned out that one (RMS Duisburg) had appeared on both the “Ships on Passage” listing and the “Ships at Berth” listing on the ABP website and this double counting caused me quite a lot of mental gymnastics as I tried to solve “The Mystery of the Disappearing Ship”. Anyway, in the end, the new camera performed extremely well and four of the nine ships turned out to be new sightings – not too shabby for a casual and highly opportunistic visit. The breakdown of ships by location was as follows (new sightings in parentheses): Howdendyke = 2(1); Goole = 1; Flixborough = 2(1); Neap House = 1; Grove = 3(1); Gunness = 1(1).
Hull gets a few cruise ship calls every summer, mostly smaller (and older) ships - interesting ones in other words. This year has been somewhat trying as a combination of awkward timings and bad weather has made picking the best opportunity particularly difficult. However, I realised that over the weekend of 14/15 July, I would have two cracks at Peter Dielmann's Deutschland as she would be making an overnight port call. As it turned out the weather and the timings on the Saturday didn't work out too well but, on the Sunday, the omens were better so I headed for Hull for her scheduled 1545hrs sailing. Things didn't go too smoothly though - arriving in Hull I discovered that the footbridge on the riverside walkway was closed so there was no access to the lock at King. I changed plans rapidly and headed out to the Paull foreshore which meant minimal hiking but very difficult light. In the end, Deutschland was late getting away and I spent a pretty nervy hour waiting for her to get out of KG Dock and come within range of my camera. As a little bonus I was able to get the tail end of the upriver movements on the afternoon tide, and I also managed some very long range, over-enlarged, fuzzy stuff of ships on the south bank at Killingholme and Immingham. The final score was 12 new ships, a load of crappy photos, and a certain amount of marital disharmony consequent upon my very delayed return home - but hey, sometimes you just have to suffer for your art!
When I set up this site after my earlier one was shot from under me when the service provider ceased trading, I called in "Mostly Ships" because it occurred to me that there would be times when no ships were on offer and some general photography might insinuate its way into the mix. So this is one of those occasions. Although profoundly irreligious, I have long had an interest in church architercture and, on Sunday 9th July, I took the opportunity to visit a couple of North Yorkshire's more obscure, small churches.
St Botolph's is the parish church of Bossall, the smallest parish in Yorkshire. It is late Norman having been built between 1180 and 1185 and it still contains a few original features. Although small it's built in the traditional cruciform style with a nave, a north and south transept, a chancel and a crossing tower. The interior was nice and bright and well lit even on what was otherwise a pretty drab day.
St John's is a relatively modern church, built in 1859 in the High Victorian Gothic style. It was built, at her own expense, by Hannah Cholmley, the widow of Colonel George Cholmley of Howsham Hall. The church was designed by a local architect, George Edmund Street.
On Sunday 1st July, having utterly failed to obtain any Fish and Chips in Scarborough the previous weekend, we decided to head for the bright lights of Bridlington to try our luck there. This time we were successful and some first class fish and chips were obtained in a singularly unprepossessing little "sitter in" on a sidestreet leading away from the seafront. Having achieved that aim I headed off down to the harbour to see what there was that was vaguely photogenic. The answer was, of course, yet more fishing boats - mostly potters this time with the odd small trawler thrown into the mix for the sake of variety. A few of the boats were out of the water undergoing maintenance and they made good subjects. The weather was kind and the new photographic equipment performed admirably. Once again I have kept the captions to a minimum as, with the best will in the world, I can't find all that much to say about fishing boats. So here we are - a few Brid Boats.
I was keen to test a new item of photographic equipment that I had acquired but weather and the absence of ships on the Ouse and Trent were proving to be very frustrating. Eventually, on Sunday 24th June, She Who Must be Obeyed and I headed for Scarborough with the main intention of having some good fish and chips. This particular mission was doomed to failure by a whole variety of factors, however I did manage to get down to the harbour during one of the few short spells of sunshine that day, and the photographs in this gallery are the result. They are mostly fishing vessels and mostly on the small side but, hey, it doesn't all have to be heavy metal. Very little in the way of captions for these - in most cases just a name and the port of registry. I've produced the usual "data supplement" but, again, it is light on detail.
On Sunday 20 May, one of our periodic trips north to see our friends in Hartlepool presented the opportunity for a little bit of rust-bucketing. The weather was kind, if not spectacular, but the "score" was really impressive. 22 ships in total, 17 of which were new sightings. I would be perfectly happy with numbers like those after spending an entire day freezing to death on the South Gare on the other side of the river. High point of the visit was watching the tugs, Bever and Sea Golf, bringing the jack up barge, Sea Jack, into Hartlepool. Always a pleasure to watch tugs in action, especially close up and in good light. There is clearly a lot of wind farm construction work going on in the area and Hartlepool seems to be one of the main supply bases so there's a lot of traffic around Hartlepool being generated by that work. I was sorry that my visit didn't coincide with the presence of a bulker over at the Ore Terminal, but you can't have everything. And there was adequate compensation in the form of the Suezmax crude tanker, Cape Bowen, on the No 2 Jetty at Phillips. So, all in all, a pretty successful short visit to the Tees.
Some family business in Basingstoke at the start of May gave me the opportunity for a second visit to Portsmouth (the previous one was on 30 July 2011). My original plan was to head for Pompey on Saturday 5 May but close scrutiny of the weather forecasts for the area revealed that the only "window" in over a week of relentless rain was likely to occur on Friday 4 May so a rapid bit of re-planning was put into effect and the result was one of my better decisions. The weather on the Friday wasn't perfect but it was dry with an occasional blink of rather weak sunshine - and if that doesn't sound terribly enthusiastic, it ought to, because for three or four days either side of my visit it heaved it down with rain. Needless to say ferries, both Isle of Wight and Cross Channel, feature large in this gallery but the stars of the show were the Royal Navy survey vessel HMS Enterprise and the Type 45 air defence destroyer, HMS Dragon, one of the Navy's newest ships. The local inshore fishing fleet also put in an appearance in some numbers and I was also lucky enough to complete my collection of the Hovertravel fleet, with some good shots of Island Express. I also managed to fit in a visit to Portsmouth Cathedral and I've included a few interior shots from there at the end of this collection. As far as the numbers go there were 62 ships in total, 48 of which were new sightings and, right at the end of the day, my 3,000th ship put in an appearance. Once again, I failed to connect with the harbour boat trip that I've been trying to take for some time, but given the success of everything else on this visit, I'm perfectly happy to leave that for another time. Be warned - this little collection is very "pic heavy"; so heavy, in fact, that I considered splitting it into two separate galleries. Unfortunately, by the time that thought occurred to me, I had already invested too much effort in sorting the images into some kind of sequence. On that topic - this collection doesn't follow my normal chronological theme - the Isle of Wight ferries made this particularly difficult by putting in numerous appearances through the day. So the larger ships appear here in the correct relative sequence and the individual shots of each ship are more or less in chronological order, but I have tried to break things up a little by interspersing groups of other, smaller vessels, such as sailing boats, fishing boats, work boats and so in amongst the heavy metal. The number of images involved has forced another couple of changes on me. I've presented the images in a standard photo gallery format rather than my normal flash slide show format. Hopefully this will allow users to cherry pick which images the view rather than having to flog through all 280 odd at a sitting. To minimise my workload I've also decided, reluctantly, to keep the captions to a bare minimum. The technical supplement that you can download contains all the usual details, but the caption below each image is likely to consist of nothing much more than the name of the ship.
Traffic levels on the Ouse and Trent have always been significantly tied to the state of the tide. However, in recent months, the relationship appears to have become stronger. It’s not unusual now, at neap tides, to find not a single ship anywhere between Howdendyke and Gunness. Spring tides, on the other hand, produce large numbers of ships over a very short time interval. Why this should be is something of a mystery and various answers have been put forward by the local “ship spotting community”. For myself, I would guess that the reason is strongly linked to the economic climate. I would guess that shipping firms simply aren’t prepared to have passages delayed by having to turn back to the anchorage or lay over at Blacktoft when the tide cuts and are arranging passages to coincide with the spring tides. Whatever the reason, for the jobbing ship photographer, timing the visit to coincide with maximum traffic has become a very precise trick indeed. I didn’t notice until Saturday 7 April that a peak seemed to be in progress and I decided to seize the opportunity presented and get down to Goole and the Trent on Easter Sunday. As it turned out the ABP site chose that exact moment to go tits up so my visit was more speculative than I would have liked – but, in the end, it proved profitable. The weather was pretty kind considering that the rest of the Easter weekend was pretty dismal and, out of thirteen new ships, five were new sightings – not at all shabby for the well trodden locations I visited. I have introduced a minor new feature with this gallery – the first image in the sequence for each new sighting is flagged with a small “NEW” tag in the top right hand corner. I hope visitors to the site don’t find this too intrusive – feedback is welcome.
I was beginning to feel that I was seriously neglecting the old stamping ground having not visited Goole since 29 December last year and having been absent from the Trent since last September! Over the course of the last year there seems to have been a quite radical change in traffic patterns on the Humber/Ouse/Trent system – a few years back there used to be less traffic during the neap tides and more during the spring tides but, despite this, there was usually something to be seen most of the time. Recently the pattern seems to have become exaggerated with far more ships on the spring tides and very few (occasion none at all) on the neap tides. A number of explanations for this have been proposed ranging from the economic downturn to the fact that the individual vessels are getting larger and therefore require more water to make it to the berths. Whatever the reason it has placed great emphasis on the timing of a visit; it’s possible to look at the movements listing and see 15 ships spread between Howdendyke and Gunness and think “great, I’ll get down there tomorrow” only to find, when tomorrow arrives, that most of them have slipped away overnight. I had spent the first three months of the year engaged in this game of maritime tea cup reading and crystal ball gazing and had built up something approaching a 100% record of failure. However, on Friday I noticed that there was one ship visiting Howdendyke that would, in her own right, justify a visit. This was Torbulk’s coaster Shoreham – built as Ballygarvey in 1982 and one of the last coasters to be built at Goole. So, after some marital negotiation, I set off from York on Saturday morning with She Who Must be Obeyed in tow and headed straight to Hook. The weather proved very friendly, mostly sunny with a short dull spell as I was photographing the Flixborough berths. The final score was 10 ships (12 if you count the graveller Battlestone and the sailing ketch, Maybe). Best of all, though, 5 of the 10 were new sightings – a pretty good result in the game of Christie vs. The Collectors’ Curve!
Sunday 29 January 2012 saw us heading for Hartlepool for the first time this year for lunch with our friends there. As usual this presented me with an opportunity for some photography around Hartlepool docks and a visit to the Seaton sands to see what action there was on the river. The ostensible excuse for this little "escursione" is to give Poppy the Shipspotting Dog some exercise. However, on this occasions, that excuse almost foundered because, as we discovered on arrival, Poppy had already had more than enough exercise for one day having already been running around the beach for ages with her best friend Archie! Nevertheless we decided that, with luck, she probably wouldn't mind some more fresh air so we went anyway. The weather was very overcast and dark but the rain, although threatening at times, managed to hold off until we had finished. The score was four new ships (if you count one previously unseen inshore fishing boat) out of a total of nine, so that's not a bad result as the Tees generally does not reward short, opportunistic visits particularly well.
Having finished off 2011 pretty close to the end of the year, I decided to see if I could boot some life into 2012 pretty early as well. The fact that New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday meant that Monday 2 January was a public holiday, providing me with an opportunity for a little ship photography before I had to get back to the daily grind of earning enough money to finance the next cruise. My initial plan was simply to do the old circuit of Howdendyke, Goole and the Trent. I was expecting Arklow Sand to come upriver on the evening tide on 1 January and, although that would have been the only new sighting, I was prepared to live with that given that there were 10 others spread along the route. However, Arklow Sand decided to remain in the Bull Anchorage and Monday morning saw me involved in some rapid, ad hoc, re-planning. The first high tide of the day at Albert Dock in Hull was scheduled for around midday so I decided to head for Paull and take my chances on what appeared. In the end the results were pretty satisfactory, yielding a total of 16 ships of which 8 were new sightings – not too shabby although some of the images were ultra long-range, very very grainy and taken against the light. The weather was bright and sunny, but windy and bitterly cold – not that I’m complaining, at least it didn’t rain or snow. So 2012 is now officially underway and I hope I can manage to fit in a few more local outings before the next cruise in September.