Photography and Art

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Photographs of Ships

One of my recent projects is to take photos of ships in the Toronto harbour. The seasons come and go, but the lake freighters sail on. A few winter in the harbour, locked in by the ice, but inevitably the thaw comes and they move on to other ports.

I was cruising around the web looking for pointers on photographing the big lakers. I've managed to capture a couple of decent photos of the beasts, but haven't really got a full understanding of what works yet.

I stumbled on a couple of astounding sites. Who knew that each and every one of the great lake ships has been catalogued and photographed many times? And who knew that such talented photographers had dedicated their lives to travelling the great lakes, taking pictures of these behemoths?

One story that captured my imagination was the bittersweet tale of Ray Thorsteinson. Ray grew up in Thorold, right next to the Welland Canal and was enamored with the lakers from an early age. He spent most of his adult life on the west coast and was fond of taking photographs of ships in Puget Sound. He pursued his hobby during his working life and was looking forward to a retirement where he could devote more time to it. Unfortunately, his life came to an early close as he fell overboard while on one of his ship photography adventures in his small boat.

Here's a Thorsteinson photo that I just love. It was taken from the Golden Gate bridge and the sense of motion and majesty is wonderful.

My exploration of Ray's site led me to the Welland Canal site, a treasure trove of photographs curated by marine photographer Jeff Cameron. You could spend a month exploring this site. One evening, I discovered a ship on the site that I'd actually spotted several weeks beforehand. While returning from a photo assignment to capture images of a large salty loading a cargo of wheat, I had to stop for the lift bridge in Burlington and the vessel that sailed past me was called the Cuyahoga. Little did I know that I was looking at a historically significant vessel. This venerable ship had started its life in 1943 as the Mesabi and is one of the oldest commercial vessels still in use on the great lakes.

I still haven't discovered the magic formula for photographing lakers, but I have a new appreciation for a hobby that I share with many artists, nearly all much more dedicated than I.

1 comment:

  1. I ran across this site by accident. You might like the photos I take as a pilot working on the Houston Ship Channel at

    I'm bookmarking your site to read more.