I went on my first cruise to the Caribbean and I’m here to share my photos and some photography basics that I learn over seven days aboard the Oasis of the Seas.
Photography Basics learned while on a Caribbean Cruise
Back in January, I went on my first cruise! It was an amazing cruise put on by Click Blogger Retreat and sponsored by Today’s Mama and Royal Caribbean. The entire focus of the retreat was to work with professional photographers to gain a better understanding of our DSLR camera and put that knowledge to good use with a beautiful location. How can you go wrong with views like this? I thought I already had a pretty good understanding of my camera and how to take great shots, however, I quickly learned that I while I was comfortable in my little space taking photos of food, I was not prepared for scenic photographs and bright sunlight photos.
My wonderful teachers on the cruise were photographers Me Ra Koh along with her husband Brian Tausend and Cannon Rep Amy Kawadler and her husband Daniel Milnor. Of course, all of the bloggers in attendance were always open to helping out and sharing what they know about taking a great photo.
My first step while in St. Thomas, was to learn to embrace shadows. I don’t like shadows in my food photos, at least, not hard shadows, so I intentionally looked for shadows and contrast. I loved this little blue bench tucked away behind a local shop. I probably would have walked past this spot if I wasn’t looking for shadows and I’m so glad that I took the time to photograph this.
They also asked us to photograph the locals. While traveling, capturing a photo of the locals helps you to tell your story about your experience. This woman at the beach and this musician on the pier were great to photograph. They each bring their personality with them to the photo. Neither one minded me taking their photo – don’t forget to ask permission first.
If it weren’t for the assignment, I would have kept on going on my merry way on to something that I thought would be more desirable. I’m so glad I snapped these shots.
Your photos should also have movement. Movement tells a story, it points you in a direction, it sucks you in and makes you feel like you are there. While on the beach at Megan’s Bay, St. Thomas, I watched several different birds swooping down into the water. I was bummed that I walked down the beach with just my 18-55 lens. That’ll teach me to travel light. All my equipment was about a half mile away at the other end of the beach. So, I worked with what I had then zoomed in during post processing to get a closer shot.
To get great shots I thought I had to shoot 100% in Manual Mode. Thank goodness Amy and Me Ra were all about shooting in priority modes. On my Canon, this would be the Av (aperture priority) and Tv (Shutter Priority). Knowing what I want to capture will help me figure out what setting I should be photographing in. If my priority is capturing something in motion, I want Shutter priority. If I want depth of field, I want Aperture priority. If that is set, I can let the ISO “float” or set it manually.
Shutter Priority Mode
To catch movement, you need to shoot in Tv – Shutter Priority setting.
You’ll need to ask yourself if you want to stop the motion – freeze it in time- or if you want to movement to blur. The photo above needed a fast shutter speed, in this case 1/2000, to FREEZE the water splashes and stop the bird in mid take off.
I should have used a faster shutter speed to capture this pelican. It was shot at 1/320 seconds. You can see some blurring in his left wing as he’s flapping. At first I was going to dismiss this photo, but then I grew to love it. So what if his wing is “moving”? He’s beautiful!
For this strawberry daiquiri shot, I was trying to capture the cherry dropping into the drink. Again, I had my shutter speed 1/320 seconds, but I just couldn’t get the photos to fire quickly enough. Even though I held down the shutter button and shot in continuous mode, I just could not capture that darn cherry in mid-fall.
Oh well, this drop is just beautiful.
Sometimes you need to change your perspective and move around.
For these photos I got my camera down as low as possible in the tall grass. While everyone else was taking panoramic photos of the beach, I was in the grass to get a different point if view.
Aperture Priority Mode
For these photos, depth of field was important, so I changed my settings to Aperture Priority and picked a shallow depth of field. Both of these photos were shot at an f-stop of 5.6. In the above photo, I wanted the grass in the middle in focus. You can see the grass in front is blurry and then the background is blurry.
In the photo below, I focused on the pretty lady to get the sense of being in the grass without seeing each blade in focus. It turned out perfectly!
Back in my element of FOOD! There was so much food on this cruise! Food on the ship as well as food on the excursions. It was amazing! St. Thomas and St. Marten really took care of us. Cocktails, appetizers, desserts, and so many meals! Yes, I shamefully came home 5 pounds heavier – even with all of the crazy walking we did!
What lens is best?
One thing that really got to me while on the cruise was not having the right lens with me. I tried to stick to my 50mm, but there were times that it just didn’t cut it. In the photo below, I was glad I had my mega zoom on me. I stood still and took this photo of an employee catching a breath of fresh air while in port.
The photo on the left is 220mm and the photo in the right is at 55mm. Look at that zoom! It’s great to be able to get in close when you physically can’t get there.
The same is true for the opposite case. Sometimes, you can’t get far enough away to get the shot. To fit in the entire ship at dock, I had to go with a wide angle at 18mm. This is great for getting into a small room and trying to capture it and not just a wall. There will be distortion though. The bow of the boat really isn’t as long as it appears.
Photographing with your Phone
Now, don’t think that I was using my DSLR the entire time. My iPhone took a lot of photos on the cruise as well. These are some photos that I shot using the ProHDR app. It takes amazing photos and the color saturation is just jaw dropping! Now, you can’t HDR everything, but landscapes and water just looks so beautiful!
A huge thanks to Today’s Mama for organizing the Click Blogger Retreat and Royal Caribbean and Oasis of the Sea. Air travel was provided by Southwest Airlines. And a Big Thank you to the additional sponsors – blurb, Patron, Sabra, Chatbooks, Studio, PubExchange, and Thrive Market for the awesome goodies, excursions, lectures, and events. It was an awesome learning and cruising experience. Until next time!
Marilyn @ Pink Martinis and Pearls
Wednesday 22nd of April 2015
What a fun cruise to take. I've never been on one but to incorporate photography lessons would really be fun. I look forward to meeting you on Thursday at the Sweet Up. It looks like you are a very busy lady! :)
Wednesday 22nd of April 2015
It was a lot of fun. Everyone from the professionals to the amateurs learned something new. Watch for more retreats from Today's Mama!
Sunday 29th of March 2015
What a great post! I learned so much. I love taking pictures and have a pretty good camera. I'm excited to learn how to use it better. Thanks for linking to Tips & Tricks! I pinned this to our Tips & Tricks board!
Wednesday 25th of March 2015
Beautiful photos! I am just learning to use our DSLR and we are also taking a caribbean cruise this summer so your thought on this are going to come in very handy :)
Sunday 29th of March 2015
So glad you enjoyed it. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about posting it, but I'm glad that you found it helpful! Enjoy your cruise!
Barbara @ Barbara Bakes
Monday 23rd of March 2015
Some great tips and some beautiful photographs. It was a pleasure getting to know you on the cruise. Let's do it again!
Sunday 29th of March 2015
Yes, yes, yes! I'd love to get together again. I had such a fun time. I don't have anymore conference plans for the year yet... maybe something in the fall?