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I am (well was) a pretty serious photographer prior to having kids (8 years back) and have exhibited across the world at various international exhibitions (achieved my AFIAP).  We’re booked up for a great New Zealand cruise in 2023 which goes through the Fjoords, assuming the weather is A OK on the day.  I want to maximise that photographic opportunity.


I haven’t purchased any new pieces of kit for 10 years now, but all my weddings money went towards gear, so I have a pretty neat collection still (Canon 5D, 7D and various L series lenses).  So, I’ve been contemplating buying some new stuff for the trip, and we live in the embarkation city, so weight is a non-issue.  I am curious about other people’s experiences with still photography on the boat, and whether shooting from a gimbal is worth the effort.  I don’t think it is, and I reckon I’m better off shooting hand held, standing but I’ve never owned one to really know.  Any thoughts?  I might just save all the money for the 100-400mm L 🙂

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Ships movement is generally low frequency - seconds for roll and pitch movements. Shutter speeds will be much faster (unless you are looking for a starlight sea photo)

I would expect hand held photos to have about the same ‘hit rate’ as with similar lighting and subject movement on land.

I currently use Olympus cameras with IBIS, so I’ve never felt the need for outboard stabilizers. 

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With ISO400 and a reasonably steady hand, handheld will almost always beat out a tripod for shots from a ship. The low-frequency oscillations Bear mentioned are not as big an issue as engine vibration and people milling around on a slightly flexible steel deck.


This shot was taken hand-held from a smaller tour boat as it pulled away from our main ride in Tracy Arm. 1/250s at f/5.6 did just fine.



The rest of the tour is here: Tracy Arm (pptphoto.com)


Even under some pretty horrible conditions, handheld from a boat works pretty well. This was taken from a tour boat that was actually a redesign of a 1000hp Coast Guard rescue speedboat (40+ ft) that was bobbing in the surf 50-100ft from  where the lava was pouring into the sea. Bent knees and timing for the peak motion got me a pretty high hit rate.


1/640s at f/4.5



Others here: lava Boat Tour 2016 (pptphoto.com)


A gimbal might be useful for video, but unless your camera is mounted of a drone, handheld works just fine. 




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Perfect.  Thanks for sharing this, and I spent a fair bit of time looking at your galleries which were very impressive.  Tracy Arm looks stunning!  I’m pretty confident that handheld is going to be fine, and scenic cruising speed should help.  I was expecting I’d have to be shooting at 1/250, so that confirmation was helpful.

Having a serious look at the 100-400mm L lens now 🙂

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Posted (edited)

Shutter speed is related to focal length. Even with stabilization which helps your hand movement it doesn't help much with things moving in the frame. I still use the tried and true method of matching the shutter speed with the  focal length as a minimum.


%D with L glass is fine, you won't need anything else unless your taking pictures of distant items then the 100-400 would be nice. I rarely need anything longer than 200mm which gives me some compression when I want it.


I've shot many weddings with 5DIII's though I changed to Sony A7III's because of the suburb focus system and the higher ISO capabilities. 


I gave up on a 70-200 for a Zeiss 135mm prime. Drop in the crop mode on the A7 and I'm at 202mm. But .... the 135mm is half the weight of a 70-200 f/2.8 😉 


This was shot @ 20,000 ISO, F/1.4 on a 35mm, 1/25. Arriving at Tahiti at night. That is when the Sony A7III shines.


Edited by Tahitianbigkahuna
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