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Be snap-happy this spring


Nothing can top the approach to Venice for Hamish!

Spring is a great time to perfect or learn photography skills. Avid photographer, and regular P&O Cruises guest, Hamish Stewart reveals why a cruise is the ideal holiday for taking fabulous photos, with some top tips to inspire you.

Hamish Stewart with three photographs he has taken

Hamish Stewart and some of his work

Q: As a keen photographer, what do you love most about cruise holidays?

A: Cruise holidays give you a wonderful variety of subject matter as you go from port to port and while at sea. There’s always something interesting to find, be it a landscape, seascape, skyscape or shipscape. There are so many human-interest scenarios to shoot, too.


Ships make fascinating subjects. An image of the ship berthed gives you a connection and relationship with the port visited – a memory of being there and on that particular ship. I like to take photos of the ship from some distance away, or from a high point to get a connection with the port and to convey the sense of scale of the location. Of all the ships in the P&O Cruises fleet, I find Oriana and Aurora the most photogenic, mainly due to their stepped deck-to-deck stern and graceful overall design. However, all the ships have innovative and distinct features that give them their individuality. The fleet's colours and graphics are very successful, making them all one of the same family.

The view of Venice on the approach

The view of Venice on the approach

Q: Can you tell us why spring is a good time to get snapping on your travels?

A: Spring yields a freshness and a feeling of rebirth. The climate, the colours of flowers and vegetation, the animals and birdlife are all wonderful to capture in spring. Viewing these subjects from the sea seems to add another dimension.


Spring in the Norwegian fjords is particularly stunning. The mirror-calm water and deep shadows lend themselves to wonderful reflections and depth, both during daylight hours and when the sun is setting. Viewing it from on board – rather than on land – gives the chance to create exciting compositions, be it the ship's wake or the constantly varying relationship of the ship to shore. The Norwegian shoreline is aweinspiring in its natural beauty and unspoilt geological evolution.


The fjords cruises are also my favourites for sunsets. Sailing out of a fjord in the early evening, the dramatic topography of the coastline and islands lends itself to some wonderfully dramatic silhouettes against the mesmerising colours of the setting sun when below the horizon. The sunrises are equally exceptional for photography, with striking cloud formations and multicoloured skies created by the dissipation of the sun's rays through the atmosphere.


Q: As a photographer, what is your favourite city?

A: For me, nothing could top the approach to Venice. Picture a beautiful sunny morning with a light lifting mist, sailing slowly and quietly up the Venetian Lagoon, past the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, the Doge's Palace, Saint Mark's Basilica, the entrance to the Grand Canal and numerous other architectural highlights… From an elevated vantage point on the sun deck, the perspective and array of subject matter was something I had never experienced before. It was stunning. I shall never forget it.


Q: What landscapes have been most fascinating and challenging to shoot?

A: Without doubt, Alaska while on board Arcadia. The wilderness, the breathtaking coastline, the remoteness and the silence (no open-deck announcements are allowed) of going slowly up glacial fjords in exceptional weather are unforgettable. The challenge was to try to capture the scale and the clarity of colour in the bright, ultra-clear cold-air environment.


Hamish's top tips for cruise photography

  1. Check the forecast for the following day and plan ahead. Will the tide be in or out? Where will the sun be positioned at particular times? When is sunrise and sunset? Think about the imagery you would like to capture and the part that shadows, light and water will play.

  3. For sunrises, get ready early. An hour before sunrise means you will capture the sun's light before it reaches the horizon. Stay an hour after sunset to maximise the many variations of the sun's rays on clouds, for example, as they change constantly.

  5. Generally try and get the sun behind you. Taking a shot into the sun overwhelms the camera's light meter and darkens the foreground subject you intend to focus on. If shooting seascapes, it's well worth having a polarising filter if your camera lens will take it. This enhances colour and takes away reflected sunlight on water.

  7. Create an interesting composition or perspective. Move the camera from side to side and up and down as you look through the viewfinder or screen to see if you are missing a worthwhile feature or incorporating an eyesore. If you have a zoom lens, utilise it to adjust what you are framing. Consider a close-up instead of a more general view. Adopt an unusual angle to amplify the context of your subject matter that will also give it added interest. For example, shoot from ground level rather than eye level.

  9. Try to get a pleasing balance of the elements in the frame. Introduce a feature in the foreground or background to give added appeal or establish the location.

  11. With sunrises and sunsets, try to incorporate a physical feature of the ship. It adds context and acts as a record of your location when taking it. If not, it is just an open horizon that could have been taken anywhere.

  13. When using a tripod or leaning on a handrail, be aware of any engine vibration. It could affect the clarity of your photograph. Sometimes it is better to hold the camera with a steady hand. The ship is a moving platform so be ready to move around the ship’s sun deck to capture unique images that may only appear for a short period.