Archive | June, 2017

The Ether of Flaam

11 Jun Misty mountains and a hotel in Flaam, Norway

Today we are anchored in Flaam, another on of those beautiful agglomerates of mountain, forest, and mist-covered waters that the maker has dropped in the North Sea to ensure that Norway will forever remain the scenic center of Europe. Well, it worked, and I am jealous of that half of the team that has the morning off. As I know those scam bags, they are probably still in bed, fending off their head ache from last night. Doesn’t matter. FLAAM!

Five of us have a different task this morning. Fleet Manager Kosmos has set a new task for photo manager Ash: dedicate a significant portion of every work week to equipment maintenance. Since Ash wishes to keep his job, he set us the task of cleaning out the photo locker, and cleaning the poles that we use to fix the photo backdrops. Both are tasks that would be obsolete, if my team members were taking any reasonable amount of care with the equipment we have. But, as it stands, we will compensate for their laziness by spending the better part of the morning indoors, in view of Flaam.

Clouds of Myst in Flaam, Norway

Clouds of Myst in Flaam, Norway

 

Pushing some order into the equipment locker actually takes less than thirty minutes, so before long the five of us are bent over the thirty photo poles, trying to figure out how to effectively remove half a century of glue and grime from those thick aluminium pipes. After several attempts featuring blunt kitchen knives and fuzzy paper towels Jennifer surrenders to the dirt, and seeks professional help. When she returns from the bowels of the unmoving ship she produces a bucket of soapy water, a couple of sponges, and a glass bottle containing some volatile cleaning solution. So, off we go on our cleaning quest, for which every single one of us feels heavily overqualified.

An hour later we are still engaged in the task at hand, but all of us are in a much better mood than when we started this enterprise. Maybe that’s because someone opened the double doors to the gangway, so that we can at least see the beauty of Flaam from a far distance, instead of hearing about it from randomly passing guests. Ash actually opened those doors after realising that the cleaning solution that Jennifer procured gives everyone a headache who just breathes in the vicinity of the photo poles.

After two hours our cleaning efforts very slowly start to bear fruit, and a general happiness has descended upon the team. Everybody is rolling on the floor laughing, which must be a wonderful sight for the manager, who declares the exercise to be successful, and celebrates the day by inviting us for coffee at one of the desolate corner shops of the ABC RypMeOff. We gladly accept, still rolling in the general bemusement that expels from the bottle of cleaning ether.

 

Misty mountains and a hotel in Flaam, Norway

In Flaam, even the hotels looks cute.

Since this is our only stop in Flaam I make it a point to leave the congregation of ether victims early, so as to use the three hours remaining until the start of my photo shift. I’m so desperate for a great view that I even skip the lunch buffet for an extended hike through the mountains of Norway. Both the headache and the induced happiness fade away quickly, but I have hopes that this might remain the only scheduled disruption of my port mornings along this cruise.

If you are thirsting for beautiful pictures of Flaam, you should head over to the gallery, which is filled with pretty impressions: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1907411039269594.1073741919.100000021481485&type=1&l=44bba2560a

Management Matters

10 Jun

The first day of any new cruise is always a sea day, so today we make a point of occupying the photo gallery, and advertising our services. My schedule says “please ensure 50 album sales”, so my apparent job is to stand at the merchandise table, and advertise small photo albums to our guests.

Those albums come with about a dozen beautiful picture prints of tourist attractions in Norway, scenic views that we will visit during the next two weeks. The album is well-made, and the photos are genuinely great. But at a price of ten Euros a piece these albums are not exactly a bargain, so most of our guests just flip through the pages, and then browse over to the postcard stand, where prices are lower, and the selection greater.

Once more I am left to ponder not only the price policies, but also the ludicrous expectations that our managers have set for us. It is good to have goals in life, but I do not see the point in setting specific targets without reasonable explanations or even the outlook of a reward for meeting it.

Fjord Town Geiranger

The photo album is filled with pictures even better than this one from Geiranger.

I was tasked with selling fifty overpriced photo albums, and only three actually exchanged hands during my four-hour shift. The fallout from that disappointment during our nightly debriefing results in little more than an acknowledgment of the facts: “you tried, but it did not work. Tomorrow we will try something else.”

Whatever that “else” might be I can discover for myself. Instead of giving us advice on how to sell more, or pondering on what products we could push instead, manager Ash just tells us that during the next ten days we will test various approaches at making money from nothing, and meeting our cruise target of €60,000. In general I prefer solid strings of information, but Ash maintains that business requires experimentation.

Overall, I am optimistic that, for the first time this season, we might actually meet the sales target, and secure ourselves a bonus payment. Ash Ketchum has set a definitive plan for tomorrow, meticulously planned out, down to the detail of “what backdrop will be used by which photographer” during the evening shootings. As it looks we may actually have to work a few extra hours during these upcoming weeks, but in stark contrast to the reign of Manager Mihai our schedule now shows structure and reason, and may well unite this scrawny department under a common work scheme. Exciting times indeed.

 

PS.: If you would like a fresh look on some of the scenes that are depicted in the Norway Photo Album, have a look at my photo galleries from Alesund, Honningsvag, Molde Fjord, Tromso, or Geiranger.

Peace in solemnity

9 Jun Hamburg retains that "Merchant of Venice" charme

Freedom! Almost!! Oh man, there’s so much still to do, but for the first time in a month I can actually sleep, snack, work, and write in my own cabin.

It took him a long time, but my cabin mate Pancho has finally moved out. He spent most of yesterday shoving boxes and laundry piles from one corner of our tiny cubby hole to another. Despite having packed his suitcases yesterday it took him some five hours to prepare his departure this morning. Luckily, I shot the new passengers at embarkation all morning, and did not personally experience Pancho’s festival of item shifting.

In the early afternoon I had a four-hour window for the exploration of Hamburg; in a way. The first and most obvious obstacle is the transportation from port to city, which takes up some thirty minutes, but at least I can use the ABC Shuttle Bus for that purpose. Now add fifteen minutes of waiting time until the bloody bus is actually filled up with precious living cargo, count in the walking distances between parking lot and gangway, and you arrive at nearly ninety minutes of spare time. Those I spent searching for shops that offered affordable alternatives in deodorant and socks, because both I need to fulfill my duties. I found both, but since this is the first time in ten years that I visited Hamburg, it took me way longer than what feels appropriate. Anyway, I acquired enough stuff to survive my remaining time aboard, however short that period might be.

Hamburg town hall

Hamburg is a pretty city

This was also the first time I got to shoot passengers during the mandatory emergency drill, presumably because our “team” is currently two members short. Or because the new photo manager wants to use my work force more efficiently. Either reason sits well with me, ‘cause I was pretty bored with my schedule so far.

Anyway, Evacuation Drill! All newly arrived passengers are required to experience one drill before we leave port; a sensible regulation that resulted from that traumatic incident at the Costa Concordia. Our bold Italian captain sounds the alarm, and all passengers, willing or not, have to make their way to their rescue points, and don their life jackets.

Then, a sneaky cruise photographer jumps out of the shadows, and takes a picture of the freshly rescued passenger. This is actually fun. The guests are still new to the cruise experience, and are ready to engage in these playful photo opportunities. They do not yet know that we will approach them three times more before the sun sets over the North Sea, and they have no idea that one photo print costs more than does a light meal in one of our restaurants.

Hamburg retains that "Merchant of Venice" charme

Hamburg retains that “Merchant of Venice” charme

Oh, blessed be the young and inexperienced! Maybe these new responsibilities will invigorate my dull experience aboard, and propel my interest in the job to new heights. I certainly feel much less constrained, now that I can sleep and work in my cabin whenever my schedule permits, not when my grumpy crew mate feels like allowing such luxury. Having a bath room that does not stink like an ash tray is a huge bonus.

On top of all that we have a new manager. Ash Ketchum is a big, jolly fellow from the Southern part of the Eurasien continent, and against all odds he seems determined to work with us, instead of having us work for him, as was the work ethic of our previous manager. Who knows, I may yet stay for the full duration of the contract, and get promoted to a salary level above that of a cargo rat. For the moment I shall lay back, relax, and reenergize in the comfort of my own cabin.

 

If you’d like to bask in the beauty of Hamburg, here is a pretty photo gallery: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1900316576645707.1073741917.100000021481485&type=1&l=0f971ab5ea

Salesmanship, when capitalism invades the heart

8 Jun A bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

Wait, didn’t we have a sea day yesterday? Oh, right, we skipped one port!

Fine, what’s one more day of boredom at sea, among imagined friends?

Both Pancho and I start work after noon, and I still cannot sleep beyond nine, and can’t do anything in my cabin without waking him up. So I return once more to the crew bar, a place that is so beautifully sterile, and void of charm that it almost seems artistic. With three hours of spare time at hand I flip through my notes, where I come across the teachings of fleet manager Kosmos.

Crew Bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

The Crew Bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff is the uninspiring place where I get most of my weriting done.

Three days ago, after a session with photo trainer Vito Kosmos introduced us to a program of sales techniques. That twenty-step program was supposedly developed by some wildly successful US business man, who retired, and now sells his marketing strategies for top dollars to capitalist companies like ABC Cruises.

Some of that guff is just everyday marketing blubber: sit down for the negotiations, look your victim in the eyes, always carry a pen, never give up, never surrender; that sort of thing. I am proud to say that I only snoozed off four times during Kosmos’ presentation, and nearly every time I was able to convince him that I was internalising the tremendous strategies that I just heard from that sleazy businessman in the digital tape recorder. Boy, the way I lied during that training session even made myself believe that I could become a salesman.

The snoozy peace was not meant to last, though. After some standard disclaimers and a demand to spend your spare time thinking up a hundred different reasons to close a deal, Mr. Business got into the more shameful sales techniques, and used an example so appalling that I damn near vomited over Kosmos’ uniform. I’m just gonna blurb it out, so you can form your own opinion.

A bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

The various bars and coffee shops aboard the ABC RypMeOff are usually filled with bored people. Even if there is awesome landscape outside.

This is the creed of salesmanship: “treat the buyer as the buyer, until the buyer becomes the buyer.” What he says is markedly little – always treat every costumer as a buyer, not as a potential buyer. He is no browser, but rather a serious buyer, and it’s your pushy way that makes him so. The idea is simple enough, because it increases the conviction of the salesman. What is so baffling is Mr. Business’ example and application for everyday life.

Hold on to your butts; this is what Market Man actually said: “for years, even before we married I regularly convinced my wife that she loved me.” On the one side that is a genius way of employing psychology in matters of the heart. But if you employ any measure of compassion to this statement, you quickly gain the urge to regurgitate your last meal, and then some.

Apparently when they had just met his wife felt beyond loath for Mr. Business, her future husband. Probably because he stalked and annoyed the crap out of her, as he does with his costumers. But Market Man did not let a little spite and hatred get in his way, and he turned the literal tide by telling HER how much she loved HIM, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. In the end she married him, but not without him having to get up first every morning, and convincing her how much SHE wanted this relationship to work.

Globe Monument at the North Cape, Norway

Everything is a product, even this barren landscape.

If you have to spend a significant portion of your day convincing your partner that he or she wants you, there is something horribly wrong with you. And with your partner, I might add! Admittedly, my practical experience in that matter is comparatively small, but I can’t see myself living with a woman whose mind is so shallow that she can be talked into feeling affection towards a person that she has otherwise no interest in.

You are both living a lie, and one of you doesn’t even know it!

The rest of the lecture focused on believing in the closed deal, and making it your sole purpose in life, which is similarly degrading for a human being, but is easily overshadowed, drowned, and smashed into immeasurably tiny pieces by the fact that the wife of Market Man is treated as the car AND its buyer in one psychotic sweep of salesmanship.

However, back over in reality there are still a dozen photographers, sitting in a windowless class room aboard the ABC RypMeOff, listening to Übermanager Kosmos explaining why salesmanship is an integral aspect of cruise photography. “Create memories, and the sell them” is the actual motto of the department. On that day I decided that I won’t be complicit in this gruesome fabrication of fictitious memories.

Cruise life dispelled

7 Jun Photo Gallery aboard the ABC RypMeOff

It’s another sea day; with yet another coming up tomorrow. Oh, jolly me!

I am supposed to pick up the printed photos from the laboratory at 8:50 A.M., together with Lolek and Bolek, our comical Macedonian photographers. There is little surprise among the team when I appear in the Photo Gallery a quarter past nine, without photo prints or any sign of our Macedonian layabouts. A short while later Lolek and Bolek actually appear, along with the merchandise, and our department starts its delayed business of praising and selling passenger photos.

Photo Gallery aboard the ABC RypMeOff

The Photo Gallery is normally full of passenger portraits, and a few passengers trying to take pictures of them.

The immanent lack of any professional attitude among half of our team members never ceases to fascinate me, and I am not surprised that it caught over to our photo trainer Vito. Not only is Vito void of professional advice today, he also lets us wait for half an hour in front of the photo lab before telling us that he cancelled today’s training session.

Well, we do meet Vito once more during our fruitless midnight meeting, where he has some crucial final advice for us: “remember, you are all good. More or less.” Well, thank you, infamous trainer who uses photos from other photographers without acknowledging them. Your officer-salary is well earned, since you seem to put in as little effort as the white-shirts with the colourful shoulder pads. (There are at least three officers aboard who have literally only one job – walking the hallways, and answering questions from passengers. I shit you not!)

I do feel more knowledgeable about photography than I did before Vito’s training, so he certainly sparked some improvement in my art. But I think I could have increased my proficiency at this job, had I been able to shoot this past week, or if Vito had put in more of an effort to approach every photographer individually.

That the opinions of our managers differ markedly from Vito’s ideals is not helping either. Not a day goes by without them telling me to walk around the Photo Gallery, pick up folders of pictures, and study the poses and cropping of the more experienced team members. That would be alright, but I cannot pick up a single folder without one of the managers hawking over my shoulder, and expressing his disagreement with the photos that I currently look at. Those unhelpful approaches are usually followed by an unsubtle hint that I should focus on the gallery, help the passengers, and prevent them from steeling pictures.

Goemon5 aboard the ABC RypMeOff

This is the kind of portrait we are not allowed to shoot. It differs too much from the norm.

When am I supposed to learn anything on this job? I rarely get to shoot, so I rarely get to practice what the manager preaches. And when I do shoot, I am usually assigned to a lone spot somewhere in a corner, so that no other photographer can possibly look at my work before the day is done.

And so I walk and talk, and stand around all day in a relatively uncreative environment, with repetitive music, grumpy hotel guests, unprofessional coworkers, and little to look forward to beyond French fries, and a warm bed. Living the life, eh?

Reykjavik and the Perpetual Photography

6 Jun Volcanic rocks in the port of Reyjavik

I am used to seeing paying passengers aboard the ship. Even on the most beautiful port days there are always some ancient grannies who would rather play Bridge at the bar than breath the fresh air of a foreign country. Apparently even natural treasures such as Geiranger lose their magical touch during the twentieth visit. But today the passengers are particularly disinterested in their environment, and nearly half of our four thousand guests stay either aboard or somewhere near the ship.

Who would have thought that Reykjavik, Icelands most generic city, could foster any feelings of boredom, particularly when ABC Cruises fails to provide shuttle buses into town, and passengers have to walk for an hour to reach any semi-interesting sight?! (Who except me?!)

Volcanic rocks in the port of Reyjavik

The port of Reyjavik is full of interesting rocks. Sadly that’s about all the splendour that I saw.

The costumers in our floating mall are somewhat perturbed about the missed port of Kirkwall, the blandness of their Reykjavik experience, and the fact that ABC Cruises has done next to nothing to make their third day in this town any more interesting than the past two. Accordingly grim and annoyed are the facial expressions of our dear restaurant guests, who were already frustrated yesterday when we pushed them for photos with our imagined officers. Today they have nothing but contempt for us. Both the portrait sessions and the restaurant rounds yield image counts that are among the lowest we have ever experienced in these past five weeks.

Unsatisfied guests pose little, and purchase less, resulting in moody managers, and grumpy photographers. But I am a professional (I refuse to speak for any of the other male figures in our “team”), and tomorrow will be a new day of pestering and shooting, and helping passengers to get rid of their money.

Sleep, work, eat, repeat.

 

PS.: My photo gallery of beautiful Reykjavik is still available. Look here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1837893536221345.1073741911.100000021481485&type=1&l=39a182ee7e

Reykjavik for ever

5 Jun Reyjavik - port and city

“This is your captain speakin. Unfortunately, do to bade whether, we can not land at the port of Kiikwha.” After a few failed attempts of imagining English pronunciation the captain of the ABC RypMeOff hands the microphone over to its barely more capable cruise director, who explains to us that the port of Kirkwall will not be available for this cruise, despite being promised and booked.

Apparently there is a tsunami, or hurricane, or some other weather concoction that is blocking us from landing in Orkney, or any alternative harbour between Iceland and Hamburg. Thus, ABC Cruises is striking the final port of this cruise from the list, and instead adds yet another day in Reykjavik.

Reyjavik - port and city

Reyjavik is pretty enough, but not really more than a city with a rocky beach.

Now, for the paying passenger that is just as well, seeing that most of them will probably claim a refund for the missed port. Some might even get to trade their Orkney Adventure against a trip around the geysers, those iconic geological trademarks that the crew aboard this ship is not allowed to visit.

The greater tragedy is that we already spent the past 38 hours in Reykjavik, and another day won’t make Iceland’s biggest city any more interesting. I doubt that its churches and office buildings hold up to the careful scrutiny of our passengers, who are already bored out of their wits. Today they still have trips booked, and tours planned, but tomorrow is quite a different story. I just hope they don’t hang around the photo booth all night, complaining to us, just because we speak better English than the receptionists.

Meanwhile, photographers are kept from boredom with yet another training session, and a great bonus shooting in the restaurants. Our manager has reinvented a brilliant plan for coaxing greater picture counts out of an unsatisfied crowd: the Officer. Two members of our photo team trade their white shirt and dark-blue jacket against a white shirt with officer-like shoulder pieces, two others run alongside them through the restaurants at dinner time, attempting to make pictures with the passengers and our official dress-up dolls.

My schedule actually says “shoot officer”, and reminiscing their complicity in this humiliating endeavour I would much rather do that instead. The dreadful faces of our photo victims speak of confusion and hatred, and we are once more reminded of how much the passengers despise our photo department. Somehow I doubt that they will be any more approachable during tomorrow’s gala dinner.

The port of Reykjavik at night

Now THAT is a pretty sight. Unfortunately we don’t shoot this, but rather the interior of the ship. Every day.

Why do our managers steadily invent new ways of pestering the passengers, yet refuse to agree to any form of reimbursement for their broken promises? These people booked a classy tour around the North Sea. Of course they disapprove of these attempts at making it a floating carnival! If I was a paying guest aboard this vessel, and I got disrespected the way they do, I would probably sit at the bar all night, drink free whiskey, and sing sea shanties until the manager offers me his cabin.

Alas, I am no passenger, and at my current pay rate I won’t ever be able to afford such an upgrade. So I continue my career as a sophisticated beggar, and roam the bowels of the swimming mall until my schedule demands that I return to my tiny cubby. And all that in beautiful grey Reykjavik!

 

Despite all tragedy I updated my photo gallery of Reykjavik with some really beautiful pictures. Have a look: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1837893536221345.1073741911.100000021481485&type=1&l=39a182ee7e

Reykjavik – Big Rocks and Little Service

4 Jun The port of Reykjavik at night

We have arrived in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, and I am not impressed. The city is pretty enough, but it really is just another western city. Except for the fact that, starting from the ship, I have to walk one hour to even reach the inner city.

However, Iceland is a volcanic island, and the entire beach between port and city has been fortified with big blocks of rock. As a geologist I can read the various volcanic rocks like a nerdy adventure book. That makes my walk a pleasurable tour through different volcanic provenances, with colourful varieties of basalt, glass, and metamorphosed dykes.

dyke through volcanic rock in Reykjavik

Just a dyke with perfectly hexagonal crystalasation, mawing through volcanic rock like it’s nobody’s business.

This geological toyland is far from the landscape of smoking rocks and spitting geysers that I expected to find, but it certainly sparks more interest in me than the cold streets of yet another European city. Even though we landed in Reykjavik early in the morning this is only a short port day, between the long and fruitless “training” in the morning, and the uninspired early start in late afternoon. We may never know what rid the devil to give us two separate training sessions today, instead of blocking them into one comprehensible unit. But having only three instead of six hours to explore the road to Iceland’s capital sure did not improve anyone’s mood. Particularly since it takes one hour to walk into town, and another to get back. The landscape easily beats the tender boredom from yesterday, but it falls way short of providing motivation for a job that is riddled with boredom and stupidity.

Sometimes I try to judge my ship life as a whole, and I am always stopped short in my trail of thought by annoying passengers or even more annoying managers. We only get one fifteen minute break during our night shift, which is barely enough to run up to the passenger buffet, fill one plate with nutrients and sugars, and gobble it down. And lately even those trips have become a disappointment. Never mind the tremendously insufficient buffet choices, with its complete lack of fresh fruit. Tonight even the pizza was cold!

The port of Reykjavik at night

The port of Reykjavik at night – who could possibly get grumpy at a sight like this one?!

As representatives of ABC Cruises we are supposed to attend to our passengers’ complains, and sell every bug as a feature of a wholesome cruise experience. But issues like cold or limited food options make it rather difficult for us to advertise this casino-style buffet table as a five-star restaurant choice. The Chinese restaurant in my home street has hotter food than this poor-man’s shrimp funeral, and they don’t even have any competition!

When I started this cruise photography job, more than a month ago, it was still a magical new adventure. After four weeks of drudgery and multi-dimensional complaining the spell has lost its power, and I only save myself from one port to the next. Is this what it’s like to work for a big company? I hope not.

 

For all my justified rambles, Reykjavik is quite pretty. Have a look: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1837893536221345.1073741911.100000021481485&type=1&l=39a182ee7e

Ísafjörður: Iceland’s rough side

3 Jun Isafjordur, Iceland

Do you remember Dublin, the port that never was? With its 15:30 drill that ended just before we started working our captain had ensured that none of us would see Dublin, because we could not leave the ship before the drill, and had to go to work directly after. Considering that this was our only Irish stop for the year, the crew was quite disgruntled with said decision and its maker. Now the masters found a way to remind us of our lost opportunity to visit Ireland’s cultural center, with as much lack of reasoning as before.

This morning around 6 A.M. we landed in the port of Isafjordur, Iceland. Given that at this time of the year the sun never sets over Iceland, the early arrival gave us a whopping eight hours to explore the town and its surrounding mountainside. Or it could have, if Isafjordur had a deepwater harbour. Unfortunately we had to anchor one mile off the shore, and access to the main land was limited to ABC Cruises’ little tender boats. Which is a recipe for disaster, at least aboard this vessel, because in times of trouble our masters tend to find enraging solutions for non-existent problems. And such, morning access to the tenders was forbidden for all crew.

Isafjordur, Iceland

Isafjordur offers awesome rock slides and a very rustic town scene.

Guests take precedence over crew; that much is understandable. But why the crew was not allowed to leave the ship before 11 A.M. is beyond comprehension, especially considering that all tender boats that left early were nearly empty. It is cold in Isafjordur, and most of our passengers stayed in until noon, so really there was no pressure to keep the crew aboard. ABC Cruises did it anyway, and as usual provided us with no explanation as to why we were not allowed to visit the town before lunch.

Of course, being shipped tenderly takes time, and I had to be back by 2 P.M. to resume our glorious photo training with Vito. So, overall I spent about thirty minutes in Isafjordur, adding a severe shortage of time to an already cold and miserable day. The town features a mountain shrouded in myst, a fish farm, and various houses, mostly white. And about a dozen or so churches. They seem to pop up on every other street corner, so you might be glad that Isafjordur only has about a dozen streets.

Photo training with Vito is still fun, and I am genuinely excited to try out new poses and light settings in my photo studio. Unfortunately, that excitement does not transgress to our passengers, who are still unwilling to have their picture taken by any ABC photographer. And so I stand alone in my little makeshift studio beside the atrium, prostituting myself to the general displeasure of cruise guests. Nobody wants to take advantage of my services, and everybody wishes for me to just vanish into the mists that I came from.

The Plaza aboard the ABC RypMeOff

It is always sunny aboard the ABC RypMeOff. Except for those who have to deal with the greedy, dirty reality of cruise business.

But in between herds of passengers that roam the decks in search of a smoker’s lounge, or the temporary joys of the casino, I stand alone, and seek refuge in the little pleasures that remain in my ship life. Such as the fact that my messy cabin mate Pancho will leave this vessel at the end of this cruise, and will likely not be replaced any time soon. Or I conjure up a mental image of the beautiful ports that we are going to revisit in the next few weeks; real natural beauties such as Kirkwall, or Geiranger.

Whenever one of my supervisors lurks around the corner, to observe and evaluate my behaviour, I temporarily transform into the car salesman that they want me to be. The rest of the time I contemplate my complicity in this business, and try to develop a plan that carries me out of here. This infrequent occurrence of alone-time in my makeshift studio is becoming important to me. I am still overtired, but at least I don’t have to perform when nobody is around. Much like Isafjordur I hide my true beauty behind a cloud of mist, and store it for warmer days.

 

For a scenic view of Ísafjörður click here.

Akureyri: old friends and new tricks

2 Jun canyons in Akureyri, Iceland

Today we reached Iceland, or more precisely the port town of Akureyri. The Northern town does not look all that spectacular, pretty as it is, so instead of wandering through the cold streets, I headed out of town. For about an hour I hiked through the grassy hills West of Akureyri, which offers a beautiful Northern countryside, with brown forests and white waters raging through deep gullies in dark-grey rock. Thus, my first contact with Iceland left a rather positive impression, despite the cold temperatures, and the slight drizzle that seemed to overshadow the morning.

canyons in Akureyri, Iceland

Water cuts steep canyons into the rocks around Akureyri, Iceland.

On my way back to the ship I stopped by a whale watching office, one of those wonderful tourist attractions that try to make a living by loading travellers onto a boat, and promising them the endangered sight of aquatic mammals. I actually just wanted to check the prices, but when I peaked through the window into their makeshift kitchen I spotted a familiar head. I vaguely recalled that Steffany had a job as tour guide, but I did not expect to find her hunched over a mug of tea in what was likely to be the only whale watching office I would visit in years. Her an I were among a dozen participants of the safety training course that I had to take before embarking on my cruise adventure, so even our acquaintance was a chancy one, not to mention me visiting her new home town on the one day she was not out at sea. We had an entertaining chat about whales, tourists, and the business between, and I came to realise that maybe this whole cruise idea was not so shabby afterall. Akureyri features on our route at least twice more this summer, so next month I might get the chance to join Steffany’s crew, and observe fat tourists watching fatter whales.

Back aboard the ABC RypMeOff we started our cruise photography training with photo trainer Vito. He seems very focused on increasing a) the revenue of the photo department (which I don’t give a toss about), and b) our skills in shooting quality photos in a rather limited amount of time. Thus, after only one month we actually receive hands-on training in shooting passenger portraits. Not only does Vito provide us with an overview of the settings and cropping that we should use, but also explains why any of those variables receive particular attention in portraits. For the past four weeks our Photo Manager told us that our pictures were “shit”, but refused to provide any helpful explanation to go with his judgment. Now I finally learn something about the actual work of a photographer, thus fulfilling one of the major reasons why I joined this whole cruise business in the first place.

Curry House in Akureyri, Iceland

Much like photographers aboard the ABC RypMeOff this curry house in Akureyri feels very small indeed.

Vito encourages us to experiment with the lighting in our studios, and provides guide lines to go with his great expectations. He hopes that during the Iceland cruise each of us will develop a new understanding of our occupation, and implement his ideas into our work flow. I would be more excited about the opportunity to learn from the master, but already my colleagues muddy my mood. Not only do the other photographers take every opportunity to denounce Vito’s teachings as old-fashioned and inapplicable. They also dampen my hopes to apply what I just learned, because the Photo Manager is unlikely to let me shoot during this cruise, since Vito apparently was primarily hired to increase the capabilities of the rank-2 photographers, who already have their own successful style of cruise photography.

Well, the day started with a chance reunion of old friends, so I remain positive that I might yet have some fun along this track.

PS.: How about some cool photos of the countryside around Akureyri, Iceland? Here you go.