Tag Archives: photographer

Invergordon, beautiful Scotland

9 May low tide at the port of Invergordon, Scotland

I have been aboard the ABC RypMeOff for nearly two weeks, and every day I like this journey a little less. The low quality of the food, cabins, and entertainment that ABC Cruises provides to the crew, combined with the great stress and the long work hours make for a terrible work experience. However, every port day shines a light on my job of cruise photographer, and today’s is as bright as any I’ve ever seen.

As a Folk musician and autumn enthusiast I have always been enthralled by Scotland’s land and people, even though I never actually visited England’s cold cousin. Today we landed in Invergordon, a pretty port town on the Western coast of Scotland, and despite the lack of snow and live music this stop has promptly reinvigorated my love for this beautiful country.

low tide at the port of Invergordon, Scotland

Invergordon unites industry, scenery, and shiny happy people.

The town itself is cute enough, with its cobblestone streets, the long rows of tile-roofed houses, and the genuine “Northern Village Feeling” that is spread by its inhabitants. Since the skies are blue and the air fresh I stride past the Medieval church and the flower-encased funeral home, and proceed towards the hills and fields that border the barely used roads of Invergordon.

The World-War Memorial is lined with old benches and a rusty dark iron fence. However, some of the flowers are fresh, and the Gaelic inscription is fairly legible. Bird calls in half a dozen dialects sound from the wild forest that lies beyond the grave of an unnamed number of soldiers – even in sight of the inhuman sacrifice of war life continues to shine in a multitude of colours. Only a knee-deep trench separates the old forest from the improvised road that measures barely two spans across. Deep and dense are the woods that stand mostly undisturbed for hundreds of years. No-one dares conquer the thick underbrush, none but the birds. Endless fields of a yellow crop spread over the unforested hills before me, only broken apart by an ancient system of narrow gullies and tree-lined roads.

yellow fields in Invergordon, Scotland

This is the landscape that has won my heart. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to live.

The air smells of flowering rye and damp hay; a very welcome experience after the stale breath of the cruise ship. Every so often the wind carries the baritone rambles of white-gloved men towards me, but these are quickly swallowed by the sounds of chirping grasshoppers and their avian predators. Even the golf course seems to blend in with the hill-covered landscape; an oil painting of the suburban Celtic highlands that stands in wonderful harmony with itself. I am almost disappointed when the few Scots that I meet along the way greet me with a friendly “Ay Ay” or “Good Morrow”. The Scotsmen in my mind are scrawny, rude lumberjacks, and seeing them dispelled into these friendly fellows somehow betrays my prejudices.

The idyllic hills beyond Invergordon are decorated with yellow fields, red-roofed houses, and the occasional green-brown forest. I begin to understand why the Celtic highlands have spawned so many poets. Despite the turmoil that the industrialised world finds itself in there are still places where men and nature are at ease with themselves. In sight of daily the struggle for survival aboard a cruise ship that neither recognizes my potential nor honours my efforts this brief trip into the heartlands is my little vacation.

CRUISE – More Sea Day Safety

8 May Vigo, Spain. A view of the port

Assistant manager Robyn keeps telling the “new guys” to rest often and rest well during these days, and he tells me to observe and ask the other members of the scattered team about the workings of this department. After all, we still have some spare time before the great summer season starts, with its four thousand passengers on their two-week cruises to Norway. He also asks me to pay attention during the safety briefings, because there is a written examination coming up.

A submarine in the port of Zeebrugge, Netherlands

Sadly I don’t work aboard a submarine. Knowing that suínking is natural would make my ship feel safer.

So far only about half of the safety briefings that were scheduled for me actually happened, and today’s meeting is no exception. I welcome the time off from my dull duties in the photo gallery, especially on the first sea day of the cruise, when all passengers are out for a stroll. But the hard chairs in the teaching room are not quite comfortable enough for a relaxing nap, and I am too tired to enjoy my read. (I always carry a novel with me now.) When it becomes clear that today’s safety briefing is not happening most of the other crew members just return to their jobs. I am certain the photo department will function without me for half an hour, though.

It slightly irritates me that our safety trainings culminate in an exam. I don’t know what happens if I fail it, but I would rather not repeat these empty meetings. On days like this, where the briefings add spare time to my schedule, I don’t really mind. However, sometimes they cut into my port exploration, and that needs to be avoided. Luckily I am left alone to rummage the scattered contents of the training room, and I actually find a copy of the official test paper among the many paper stacks decorating the shelves. It would be easier to have the answer key as well, but knowing the questions of that safety exam already helps a lot.

The exam contains few questions that are directly connected to safety and survival at sea. I did not expect anything else, not after the complete lack of dedication that ABC Cruises has granted this topic so far. The exam is even riddled with the typographical and grammatical errors that I have come to associate with my Italian masters. I don’t know what good it will do me to know the number of life rafts aboard this vessel, or how many people can go onto one overcapacity raft. But those are certainly among the numbers that I am going to study.

Tonight I am more relaxed as I beg the restaurant guests to pose for photos. No doubt our supervisor will scrutinise my photos as “shit” again, and will refuse to tell me what he finds wrong in them. But at least I can quit worrying about the safety procedures aboard. If our cruise ship ever gets into peril, I will stand on my safety position, and annoy passengers with useless ship trivia until they evacuate my realm. That might actually be a good way to get them off my back in the photo gallery as well.

CRUISE – Southampton

30 Apr Exterminate!

My work day starts with more safety training. Since I still don’t understand any of the procedures that a ship emergency carries with it, I have many questions for the Italian Mr. Sanders. Alas, this training is scheduled during our precious port time, meaning that any training time cuts into my port adventure. So, should I actually ask the scrawny Italian how to identify vertical and horizontal fire zones, and watch his body succumb to a four-minute charade with Italian subtitles and English sound effects? So far the educational value of those attempts at communication has never risen above the entertainment value of his exaggerated gestures.

Exterminate!

Dr. Who and his eviltons had a guest appearance in Southampton. Exterminate!

Alternatively I might just leave the ship, and enjoy light British rain and Victorian architecture in Southampton. Thus I opt for the easy way out; bottle up my safety questions, and see some city scape instead. In case of an emergency I can just stalk any of the other crew members, and hope that they fake understanding more easily than me.

Grand Glittery Stairs aboard ABC RypMeOff

The Grand Stairs are a photographic attraction on cruise ships. Often enough they were my photo studio.

During my evening shift our assistant manager shows me how to “catch” people on the stairs, and how to properly pose and shoot them. He has an aura of authority, I grant him that. When he shouts “Stop” at a random lady who descends the stairs, she halts in her tracks, and produces a face that vaguely resembles a smile; probably in the vain hope that he might let her continue walking. Once the first photo is made she attempts to flee. However, she did not prepare for the gruesome gaze of the Assistant Photo Manager, who, by the power of his eyes, freezes her once more.

The vague smile on her face has made way for lines of panic, and after the second photo she considers whether it might be safe to continue her journey. But no, the figure of authority that holds my camera is out for blood, although he now has to resort to hand gestures to keep the unlucky passenger on the stairs. Her third pose is one of discomfort and insecurity, not far from actual terror. After triggering the flash the Assistant Manager points at various portions of the digital photo that he made, and highlights its grandeur. Our female victim uses his drop of attention to flee the scene as fast as her short legs allow. Tonight she was lucky to escape with her life, and in the future she will know better than to walk the Grand Stairs alone at night.

 

You can view my photo gallery of Southampton here.