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.
One of the things that I like most in terms of photos is pictures taken at dusk or night time; even more so if water is involved. I have already mentioned that I had some great night time shots in my sights in Swansea Marina this week, only to be dashed by the poor weather. If there is a choice between slogging around a deserted water side district and sitting in the hotel bar with a pint of real ale, then there is of course no choice. So last night, having finally returned back to Suffolk, I took the plunge, as it were, and popped over to Ipswich and the Marina in order to take some shots in darkness.
However there are many things you learn when you involve yourself in photography. One is to always heed the old Boy Scout motto, ‘Be Prepared’. I found that, no doubt like most ‘water side developments’, this one was tightly controlled as far as parking went. Even at 8pm. And of course, I had not brought any change with me. So much frustrated driving around followed, and just as I was about to give up and go home, a space right on the waterfront availed itself. I breathed a sigh of relief, and set about getting the Nikon ready to shoot. I set the F-stop to 11, the ISO to 100, and the mode to manual. Then I got the tripod out and got ready to shoot. The results of my first night time shoot surprised me. They are, I hesitate to say, rather pleasing. I have made a few elementary errors such as letting street lights leak into the corners of some shots, and I over exposed one of them and made it rather grainy, and I also learnt a bit about post processing.
Yes, the post processing ‘workflow’ has become a bit of an art for me with my daylight photos. I use Adobe Camera Raw to sort out clarity, detail and sharpening, and have been in the habit of increasing the sharpening in recent weeks. But on pictures taken at night, even on a low ISO, that is asking for trouble as you are letting masses of noise into the shot. So I then did a second pass and was more restrained in my settings, and here are the initial results. Hope you enjoy them.
Finally, before we get to the actual results, I have learnt a few things again here. In no particular order, here are some things I will try and remember next time:
- The positioning of the camera is key. I didn’t consider the effects of the streetlight above my camera in the second picture, and it flared into the top right corner.
- Use a shutter remote release. You don’t want that camera moving. I haven’t sussed out the mirror lock function yet, but this also helps in steadying the camera and that’s how you get those pin-sharp images.
- To deal with the artefacts and lens flare from the lights in some pictures – take the long exposure first [most of mine were 6-10 seconds], then take the same shot at a much shorter exposure. You can subsequently increase its exposure in Camera Raw, and then add it as a layer to the original so you can erase the flared bits and expose non flared detail beneath.
- The key settings are LOW ISO, LONG EXPOSURE, but try to start at about F8 and play around with the aperture in Aperture Priority mode.
- Beware pedestrians; especially when a tripod is involved. Don’t hog footpaths, especially if like me some shots were taken outside a busy pub on the dock – you don’t want to end up with the tripod wrapped round your neck.
- Prepare – check out things like parking charges if you are driving – many ‘shootable’ venues such as this one are very busy, even at night, and nothing is more frustrating than driving round unable to stop and take pictures!
Above: I was surprised at the clarity and crispness of the images in low light – that is the effect of a decent tripod and a low ISO.
Above: This was an interesting shot because it involves indoor and outdoor subjects. A surprising amount of detail from the inside has been captured.
Above: Some flare from the rope ligths in the middle of the picture, because this was taken with a 6 second exposure at F11.
Above: The shot that taught me that ‘less is more’ as far as post processing goes. Just a little sharpening and some de-noising.
Above: Again some lens flare, this is a problem I will have to learn to deal with by positioning the camera.
Above: a crop from a larger image, again having done some post processing, mainly in camera raw, I’m pleased with the result.
Last week I posted some photos that I took recently in Felixstowe, where I had used the manual settings on the camera and forgotten to adjust the ISO down from a previous evening sunset photo session. This resulted in horrible shots with loads of ‘noise’ on the images, and try as I might I couldn’t really salvage them. A shame, because some interesting subject matter was around and about. Well, more recently I have returned to the same spot – in fact it’s becoming a bit of a ‘local’ practice ground for me due to the great location and changing views. This time, I set the levels correctly and got some good shots. See what you think.
Above; This is one of the first shots I took with my ‘big’ lens – a Nikon 55-200 super zoom. It really is an awesome lens. I like this shot, even though it’s riotously ‘busy’!
Above: Another very similar shot to one I have taken several times, this time correctly exposed, and a circular polarising filter taking effect.
Above: A saturated rendering of a picture of the concrete jetty which has an interesting mix of materials, all nicely weather beaten.
Above: I was really pleased with this one. Another shot with the 55-200mm lens.
Above: Almost looks like the Caribbean, doesn’t it? No, it’s the dirty, oily River Orwell. This shot, although the water is interesting, lacks any real interest or lead-in.
Above: My first try at an F4 close up with a blurry background. In fact, maybe a bit too blurry.
Above: The same shot, but using the whole of the piece of drift wood – which looks a little bit dolphin-like. I could crop the right hand side a bit and lose the small bit of sand.
Above – taken with the normal lens, as I had left the big one in the car by this point. It is straining a bit at 55mm, but would have been a nice sunset shot if taken later in the day.
Above: Another rather dramatic shot – you can see these huge cranes from miles away on the horizon; I like the stacks of containers on the right as well. The UK’s trade deficit in one image.
I went to Felixstowe again today, to try out the circular polarising filter which I bought last week. This is a filter that basically rids he picture of reflections and enriches the colours and highlights the details in your composition. I had some great fun, and even managed an HDR shot as well. However, having now returned home and done some work on some of the shots I took, I couldn’t understand why there was so much noise coming up on the pictures. I had shot them all in manual mode, and been very careful to appy my new learning to the settings [lower F stop for close ups, higher F stop for greater depth of field]. Then I realised. I had not checked the ISO setting, which I had last set when doing some sunset shots – it was on a massively high setting and so the pictures are very grainy. I count this as a lesson and have put it down ‘to experience’……but I’ll share the pictures with you anyway.
Above – a bit overcooked for some tastes, but the result of shooting toward the sunlight using the CP filter and an ND4 grad.
Above: Today’s rather painterly HDR shot, made up of three shots taken on the tripod at -3, 0 and +2 EV exposure compensations. A bit of advice – ships are a poor subject for HDR – even with a super steady tripod you can’t stop the ship from bobbing around on the water, as I found out here!!!
Above: Please welcome the COSCO Guangzhou, weighing in at 109,000 tons and able to carry, so I understand, 9500 containers. She is apparently one of the top 10 largest container ships in the world. I created a duplicate layer in Photoshop, made it B&W, then erased the ship’s shape to bring some colour into it.
Above: You can see what I mean about the noise that selecting the wrong ISO setting creates! This was passed through Topaz Adjust and I have brought out some interesting colours.
Above: One of the day’s more successful shots – the Landguard Fort which was built to repel German invaders should they have got this far. Rather sinister in black and white – see how the CP filter has picked out the cloud detail.
So, still lots to learn, then! Hope you enjoy following me as I do so!!
A few weeks ago I did a post of some photos I took at Southwold on the Suffolk coast. Since then, I have been playing around with a few plug ins for Photoshop, the most notable of which is NIK Sharpener Pro. This tool is, as its name suggests, a bit of software for adding sharpness to a photograph, and the effects that it gives a photo are, quite simply, stunning. There are not that many applications I can think of which would make you gasp when they have been applied to a good photo [and it has to be a decent photo, of course, to start with!] – but NIK is one of them. I picked it up through the excellent ‘Stuck in Customs‘ website. Have a look at these previously posted images and see what you think.
Finally, one I took at nearby Felixstowe as a three-image HDR effect, which I rather like.