The best cruises for stunning travel photos
Cruising and photography may seem curious partners, but sailing on a small ship takes you close to visually appealing coastal landscapes and gives you angles that land-based photographers never capture. A stake-out on a ship's deck or Zodiac is also a chance to photograph wildlife with minimal disturbance while immersed in its environment.
"The freedom to follow aquatic wildlife in any given direction increases the chances of getting the shots you want," says Peter West Carey, an accompanying photographer with UnCruise Adventures, which runs photography cruises in Alaska, Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama. "Also, there's something to be said for having a great place to lay down your gear and rest while someone else helps hunt for subjects."
Beyond simply taking you to Kodak-worthy destinations, some small-ship companies also offer photography-themed cruises. Experts offer advice through lectures and other presentations on everything from basic composition to advanced camera functions; a few delve into post-production techniques. Most experts also offer occasional one-on-one time with passengers, and accompany shore excursions for advice in the field.
"An expedition photography program is designed to help you take the best shots of your life. Whether you think of yourself as a photographer or just someone with a point-and-shoot, you'll go home a better, more confident image-maker," says Ralph Lee Hopkins, Lindblad Expedition's director of photography.
Several companies offer such cruises, with Lindblad notable for using National Geographic photographers on cruises in Alaska, the Amazon, Central America, Cuba and the Galapagos Islands. Silversea has photography cruises in South America, Japan, southern Africa and Alaska. Aurora Expeditions specialises in the Arctic and Antarctic, and Hurtigruten is launching six photography voyages in Antarctica from November 2016 that will also include video photography.
These photography-themed cruises in great destinations are sure to keep you clicking:
This cruise focuses on the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia, and includes visits to Shackleton's grave and Grytviken's whaling museum, plus excursions to the world's largest penguin rookeries and elephant seal colonies. A lecturer from BirdLife Australia is aboard.
BEHIND THE LENS
Specialised photography programs and workshops cater to both amateur and advanced photographers. Accompanying experts give one-on-one advice during landings and on wildlife-spotting Zodiac excursions.
An 18-day Photographer's First Light cruise from Stanley to Punta Arenas with Aurora Expeditions. Departs 19 November 2016, from $US14,300 a person. Phone 1800 637 688. See auroraexpeditions.com.au
This adventure is all about wildlife, including Darwin's finches, flamingos, blue-footed boobies, iguanas and giant tortoises. Close-up photography is certain on an active cruise that includes hiking and kayaking.
BEHIND THE LENS
A photography instructor, undersea specialist and naturalists accompany the cruise. Zodiac excursions are timed for the best light. There are also opportunities to share and learn, and one-on-one critiques from experts.
Ten-day Galapagos Aboard National Geographic Endeavour cruise from Guayaquil return with Lindblad Expeditions. Departs February 3 and 10, and April 21 and 28, 2017, from $8240 a person. Phone 1300 361 012. See expeditions.com
SRI LANKA AND INDIA
Sri Lanka and India are famously photogenic, and a focus on wildlife (including tiger spotting) adds to the opportunities. Also meet museum curators, snorkel in the Andaman Islands and visit historic cities such as Galle.
BEHIND THE LENS
A professional photographer gives lectures and workshops, and demonstrates how to get the most from camera settings. The photographer also accompanies shore excursions to give on-the-spot advice.
A 16-day Colombo to Kolkata cruise with Silversea. Departs February 11, 2017, from $17,415 a person. Phone 1300 306 872. See silversea.com
Both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Panama are explored on a cruise that includes kayaking and snorkelling, visits to villages and World Heritage-listed Fort San Lorenzo, and a transit of the Panama Canal.
BEHIND THE LENS
A professional photographer supplies advice both on the ship and in the field on how to capture the best shots. Wildlife viewing by dugout in the Darien rainforest, plus bird-watching along the Chagres River.
Eight-night Pure Panama cruise from Colon to Panama City with UnCruise Adventures. Departs May 26, 2017, from $US4395 a person. See uncruise.com
A journey into remote Alaska takes you close to glaciers and mountains, and is timed for the salmon-feeding season of bears. The cruise concentrates on the Kenai Peninsula and Kitmai National Park.
BEHIND THE LENS
A professional photographer can offer personalised tips and instruction because the ship carries just eight passengers. Excursions on foot supply exceptional – if nerve-racking – chances to get close to bears.
Eight-day Alaska's Grizzlies Photo Tour cruise from Kodiak or Homer return with Natural Habitat Adventures. Numerous departures between June 17 and September 11 2017, from $US9295 a person. See nathab.com
SNAPS ON SHORE
No big cruise ships offer dedicated photography cruises, but keep an eye out for occasional shore excursions accompanied by photographic experts. For example, Holland America Line (hollandamerica.com) has a Barbados in Focus shore excursion with a specialist in black-and-white photography on many Caribbean cruises out of Fort Lauderdale, and Carnival Cruise Line (carnival.com) has a Skagway in Focus tour on several of its Alaska sailings from either Vancouver or Seattle.
Royal Caribbean International (royalcaribbean.com.au) offers a Coastal Photography Tour in eastern Canada's Bay of Fundy on its seven-night Canada & New England cruise, and a Whale Watching & Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari from the Alaskan port of Juneau, limited to 14 passengers and using a custom-built safari vessel designed for photographing wildlife. Because such shore excursions are sub-contracted to local companies, you'll find similar versions on other lines such as Princess Cruises (princess.com) and Regent Seven Seas Cruises (rssc.com).