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Taking photos from a moving ship

sasko1sasko1 Member
edited October 2011 in general photography

I'd like to ask for advice on taking photos from a moving ship.

In a month I am going on a trip to Antarctica and since there will be rough terrain (Drake passage) with enormous waves and also during other parts of sea, waves are expected I wonder, what kind of settings should I use to exclude the "shaking"?

thanks for your advice.


  • for sure high shutter speed not less than 1/1000 and also it depends on the focal length of the lens u use. high focal length need higher shutter speed and vise verse
  • I do a fairy bit of photography on the ocean. I find that no slower than 1/1000 for sea scapes and up to 1/2000 if you want to grab a shot of sea birds. I use TV mode so your shutter speed doesn't suffer if there is more sea than sky. You still have to make sure you have the depth you want but. The trip you are doing is one of my dreams cheers Ruby.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited October 2011

    You will have to make sure you expose correctly, in that there will be lots of light sky, white/blue ice, but if shooting in a 'mode' you will get varying results depending on how much sky [as Ruby said] and I would personally shoot manual, then no matter how you compose, you will still get precise exposures each and every time with no bias influence from your camera's metering system. [Of course if you have shifting cloudy conditions, your exposures will vary]

    I have shot a fair bit for water-skiing, yacht racing and have done commercial work for huge coal ships for company's owners here in Australia from a helicopter and needed to have shutter speeds way up in the 1/4000th+, and I would also select ISO 400 [so that is gives more leeway for high shutter speed, but also for a smaller aperture for greater depth of field], shutter speed at least 1/2000th, preferably more and then choose aperture to get correct exposure. If in big seas, you will be moving quite a bit.

    Remember, if you see a lot of light, like sky, ice, etc. and you shoot in a Mode, your camera will try to render the scene 18% grey, and your lights will be underexposed.

    Shoot a test shot of just the water, get your histogram to peak in middle and that's a good starting point to fine tune manual exposure from.

    Shoot in RAW :)


    EDIT: Actually I also forgot, normally one would try to hold camera firmly to lock in, but I find on moving ships, yachts, helicopters, that if you hold the camera loosely/gently, just cradling it, that helps with much less shake/movement, and if you have a firm footing on the ship, bend your legs just slightly, let your knees absorb the pitching/rolling of boat, you will end up with a better result. Hopefully! :)

  • Thanks for all the help. I will try to use manual, hopfully I will have enough time since sailing will take 2-3 days through Drake passage. :) I am not so much worried if there will be sunny day, much more concerned if there will be fog and cloudy and dark.
    I guess high ISO will be an option, si I could use high shutter speed.

    Hmm, if I use mode and if i get underexposed shots, is it one of the solutions also to have EV + 1 stop etc?

    Ruby, it was my dream too, but I said to my self, why not now. I risked a lot of money, but I think it will be worth it. Now I just have to sort out all the details and make good photos.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Yes, you could do that with mode, but you are still at the mercy of the camera's exposure values, and you may still be off with the EV+- compensation since you still have to compose with various elements in frame, more sky, less sky, half and half, etc. and the camera would still be juggling the exposure values as to what it thinks is needed, and the EV compo would still not be a 'set' thing also.

    Definitely better off with manual IMO.

    As to fog, still no problem, as you still have to expose correctly, and there may be an opportunity for great shots with icebergs, whatever.

    Cloudy and Dark, wow, I would love to have that option, much more dramatic, and believe me, easier to adjust manual exposure without glaring highlights and dark seas.

    Same with shooting weddings, I love the dark moody skies, brides first think it's a disaster but once they see the shots, love them.

    Good luck and enjoy yourself, post some images when you get done.

  • Thanks Trev.
    Hopfully I will manage with this. There will be eonugh time between trips to land to exercise with camera. :D

    I am already looking forward to it. And yes, will post a few images here. For jury to make the verdict. :)

    thanks again for advices.
  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited October 2011
    AI Servo (for Canon) especially if the subject is getting closer or further from you. Not sure what Nikon and other brands call it. If the focus point is locked and object then moves it could look like a shaky image but was just OOF. Keep the shutter speeds up as suggested and use the lenses/cameras IS/VR, etc.

    I took this while I was on a bus going 90kph. As the bus passed it the focus point distance was becoming further. AI Servo saved the day.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Nice capture Zenon. :)

  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited October 2011
    Thanks. Lots of fog that morning. I was really disappointed we could not pull over when I wanted to. I think shooting through the bus window helped a little with the lighting. Never pass up an opportunity.
  • Zenon, great image there!

    I would liek to ask also, how is D700 for a bad weather? Like snow storm or rain? I know it isn't waterproof, but what harm can rain do to it in normal use?
  • Sasko1: I've had the good fortune to sail the Drake Passage three times. If, as you mention in your post, you encounter enormous waves, one of the last things you'll be concerned with is your camera settings. You'll be more concerned with hanging on, as the Drake Passage can be incredibly rough. Your D700 can take some rain and snow. A very inexpensive camera saver is a plastic grocery bag with a hole cut in the bottom of the bag for the lens. Fasten a rubber band around the end of the lens. For really foggy scenes, add +2/3 to +1 EV. Check your histogram and look for blinkies. In Antarctica, you will think you're on a different planet. It's fabulous. Richard
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Not sure about the D700 (although it does seem very solid and much like the D3), but here is the how my D3 bodies look on occasion. And they work without hiccups. (Aside from one of them going in for AF problems recently.)


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