Port of Felixstowe pt II: Wheels and Concrete

Having seen the shipping side of the docks, I have also explored the ‘other’ side, which is the equally interesting ‘nuts and bolts’ of how the port works.  If you aren’t familiar with Felixstowe or the East of England, then you may not know that the port is woefully poorly connected to the rest of the country.  Basically, there is one trunk road, known as the A14, which runs pretty much from the dock gate to Birmingham in the centre of the country.  It is hopelessly over capacity, such that traffic often grinds to a halt at busy times.  You would imagine that rail would also be a good way of moving the vast numbers of containers that we saw in the previous post – considering that one large ship can now carry some 10,000 20 foot containers, that is potentially 5,000 truck journeys, or a fraction of that number of trains.  But the rail network is not great either, so there is something of a bottleneck for freight leaving Felixstowe to its destinations.

These photos were taken at various places in or near to the docks, and represent some of the more interesting things I found as far as moving the goods around is concerned.

Above: trucks lay waiting to be called to pick up their loads.  There is massive security at the port, and drivers must produce a biometric ID card at the gates or they are denied access.

Above: ‘The Grid’ – the containers come off the ships and are stacked on a 3-dimensional grid system, which you can see marked on the ground.  Each container is allocated an ‘X’, ‘Y’ and vertical ‘Z’ position so it can be found easily to be loaded for its onward journey.  Did you know that the docks sometimes close when it snows?  The reason is that the snow covers the grid markings, and the crane drivers cannot see which containers are which!!

Above: Stacked ‘Short Sea’ containers [denoting that their journey is short as opposed to from the other side of the world].

Above: a fork lift which can lift a loaded 20 foot container, which could weigh 20 odd tons.

Above: There are all manner of ageing vehicles which are only used within the yards, and which are known as ‘shunters’.  This tired-looking one must have retired from the open road many years ago.

Above: Abandoned?  This has been dropped off whilst another container is emptied, to be picked up again later.

Above: I for one would not like this to be my place of work, as I fear heights!

Above: Waiting seems to be a large part of the job, for the ships’ crew and everybody else reliant on them.


Port of Felixstowe pt I: Ships and Shore

The second set of pictures I took yesterday afternoon, in unseasonably warm sunshine, was from the marina at Shotley.  This is a peninsula between the rivers Orwell and Stour, and within a few hundred yards of the shore here you have Harwich, to the south, which is a major ferry port for European destinations, and Felixstowe to the north, which is one of the largest ports in Europe.  It being a Sunday afternoon, the port was relatively quiet, with two large container ships already berthed, Maersk Klaipeda and MSC Rossella, and one which arrived whilst I was shooting, Maersk Taurus [which is the one in the last picture]. 

It is quite interesting watching the movement of these vast ships – the port is now able to handle the largest container ships in the world – because although the Taurus has a weight of 94,000 tonnes, it was pirouetted 180 degrees by two little tugs in about five minutes, and looked for a moment rather graceful.   The other interesting thing about shooting a large port like this is the sheer vastness of the machines.  As well as the ships, which are incomparably large, the cranes also dwarf everything around them.  Their drivers sit a hundred feet above the ground in a glass cab, sliding back and forth over the dock and then over the ship as they move the containers.

Pin Mill in the Afternoon

My daughter is at school quite a way from home, and as a result, when birthday parties occur, there is usually a long drive involved.  Rather than try and get home and then go back again, I find it easier [assuming the weather is decent] to take the camera and find somewhere nearby to take some photos for a couple of hours. Today was just such an afternoon; the dog refused to get into the car, so I could not spend the time walking him.  Instead, I took two sets of pictures.  The first is of Pin Mill, a small hamlet that sits on the south bank of the River Orwell as it flows from Ipswich out to sea at Felixstowe.  The light was very clear today, and the still water provided some great reflections.

Liverpool by Night

Here are a few pictures from a recent trip to Liverpool, mostly from the Pier Head area.  I snuck out of the hotel and captured some interesting sights.  My previous ramblings around the city were documented here.

The first one was taken out of my hotel window, and the second is a crop of the first, but with the white balance turned down to about 2200.  They were all taken on my d3100 with shutter priority mode at F16 over a long exposure at ISO100.  Hey, enjoy, already too soon!

Winter Sunset

I tried to do a few sunset pictures last year with varying degrees of success, using an ND Graduated filter to reduce the glare of the sun.   However the sunsets in East Anglia, dramatic as they can sometimes be, do not really allow you to include the sea because you are by definition on the east coast, much to my frustration.

So I was really excited when I got lucky yesterday – work took me to Sidmouth on the Devon coast – some 5 hours drive from home, and I arrived at the hotel just in time to get out of the car, stretch my tired legs and take some photos on the beach.   The temperature was already near freezing as I got there, but it was a beautifully clear day and it was too good an opportunity to miss.

As you can see, there were also some surfers in the water – I don’t know how they stood the cold, even in wetsuits.  The water looked icy.  So, here are my favourites.



Copenhagen in Winter

Right, to ease me back into blogging again after a lengthy lay off, I am posting a little photo diary of this weekend’s trip to Copenhagen.  It was savagely cold, in a way that the UK has not been so far this winter.  The east wind goes through any layers you are wearing and eats its way into your very being.  Copenhagen is a compact little city, with a lot of waterways, and a few very good real ale pubs.  These shots were all taken with my little Samsung point and shoot camera, because we only took hand luggage and the big camera is too big!!


Photo of the Day: La Rambla, Barcelona, 7pm

This shot of passers by was taken in the still oppressive heat of early evening by a busy news stand (oh how witty – I didn’t know a news stand could take photos!!!). It was shot in RAW format and then given a pop in Topaz Adjust to bring out all those details from the flagstones to the myriad clothing styles worn by these people.

A few more from the BBC at Mediacity

Normally, when taking a batch of photos, I will pick out my favourites for post production and posting on the blog.  But after a few days, I will often then ‘have a go’ at some of the less notable photos, and see what I can do with them.  In this case, I have pulled out three which were less immediate but, having tweaked them a little bit, I still like them.

Above: The tram station at mediacity, where the long exposure has resulted in a little artistic blurring of the people on the platform.

Above: The CBBC studios.  The shot is not a great one, because I took it ‘straight on’ as opposed to at an angle.  But I like the lead in that the floor mounted lights give it.  It could do with a little straightening up as well.

Above: Aargh!! The evening I shot these pictures, it was quite windy.  Whilst I was using my sturdy Manfrotto 190 tripod, this shot is slightly blurred because the camera moved imperceptibly during the long exposure.


My recent tour around England’s North-West took me in an exotic loop from Runcorn, through to Salford via a weekend at a friend’s house in New Brighton, just a short ferry from Liverpool across the Mersey.  I took some shots on the beach on a sunny afternoon, because the sea front has unique qualities.  The sea can retreat at low tide for maybe a quarter of a mile, leaving a vast sandy expanse; yet at other times it can seem as if it is trying to breach the sea wall and flood the [reclaimed] sea front. Here are some photos that I took with a no.8 graduated ND filter and my trusty circular polariser.  A couple are HDR’s, the rest just normal.

Above: The ‘Lifeguard’ hut is a great subject for a shot or two.  This is actually an HDR of four shots at varying exposures.

I love the way the clouds seem to radiate from the centre of this picture – it gives it some dynamism and almost makes it look as if I meant to get this effect!!


Above – testing out the depth of field technique of focusing ‘one third in’ to the picture.

Above” This is the sea wall and where I am standing is often under water – so the wall has acquired a nice patina.

Above: That rather dramatic sky again, captured in Black and White.

Above: Looking out to sea from the gap at the top of the steps, this is an HDR rendering of four shots taken at varying exposures, the given a ‘pop’ in Topaz Adjust.

An Evening Stroll around Media City UK

Much has been made in the British press about the BBC’s gradual move to Salford, near Manchester.  It has been explained as a cost cutting measure and also as part of the ongoing attempts to revitalise the provinces and draw some of the attention away from London.  Well that’s as may be, but I found myself temporarily relocated to Salford this week for a few days because of work.  One evening, me and my two colleagues decided to take a wander, and so I took my Nikon and my tripod with me too.  Not a great look for a casual wanderer, but it made for some interesting night time shots.  I also fell victim, for the first time, to the security guard intervention syndrome that so afflicts the urban snapper.  Luckily, this chap was quite nice once I explained myself as an amateur photographer, explaining that ‘we’re told to ask people, like’……

Above: The building works still continue, but the whole mediacity site does have something of a buzz about it.

Above: A shot of the Mediacity tram terminal at F16.

Above: The main square – the ‘Studio’ building to the right houses Childrens’ BBC and Blue Peter is also situated close by. My daughter was impressed by this.

Above: The quay looking towards the Lowry Museum.

Above: The sweeping glass facade of the CBBC studios, where you might meet actors dressed as unlikely, furry creatures.  Or a dalek or two.

Above: The sail bridge, whose lighting, like that of much of the illuminated area, changes colour constantly.

Above: This was the view from my 15th floor hotel window.  On the first evening, before the sun set, I set up the camera and tripod, and took a set of images of this view at a range of -3ev to +3 ev.  Then I merged them in Photomatix to create this interesting HDR image.  My hotel room had floor to ceiling windows, which made me feel a bit uneasy if I went too close and looked down.  In the background is Trafford Park, which is a vast expanse of goods sheds, oil depots and container haulage yards that goes on for miles, and is the size of a small town.

Above: I took this from the 15th floor lift lobby in the Holiday Inn by setting up my tripod and camera right up by the window (which needed a clean!!!) and using a polarising filter to minimise reflections.  Luckily nobody came out of the lift to see me!!!