Photography Blog

Beware the Inexpensive Boat Tour, and How to Prepare, Percé Rock, Quebec (QC022)

The only down side with the tour to Percé Rock and Bonaventure Island is the boat ride itself.  Tourists are lured by the lower cost for the boat tour/ferry ride to the island (only $30 per adult for a 1 hour tour of the rock faces and wildlife colonies, with drop-off and/or pick-up at the island).  The boats are completely packed full to the point of standing room only.  In some parts of Canada the number of people crammed on board would be considered dangerous.

In today’s travel photography arena it’s considered poor manners for a photographer to push tourists overboard to make space for the photographer to take photos while on an overcrowded boat tour…poor manners even in Quebec!  Although a quick and effective solution, shooting annoying day trippers with a gun is still illegal…so in lieu of this, you will need to be well prepared to have even a remote chance of capturing images worth keeping (particularly if you prefer sharp images that are boof-head free).

Some basic rules:

  1. The person with the biggest head (boof-head) will always stand in front of your lens at least 10 times during the boat trip.

  2. Knives are cheating, elbows are not.  Stand your ground; protect your gear and your line of sight.

  3. The boat will not stop moving, swaying and bobbing potentially effecting image sharpness if the selected shutter speed is too slow. You have no control over the boat or the waves – only the shutter speed for each shot.  As you move to higher boat decks (away from water level) the “cork bobbing” effect of the boat usually increases significantly.

  4. Most tourists on the boat are going to be mouth-breathers conditioned by our modern age, therefore they will consider pushing you out of the way or standing in front of your lens to be of little consequence in order to get that one seemingly-superb “camera phone photo opportunity”.

  5. Camera phone photos are never superb – though producing images that are mediocre at best…the person who pushed you out of the way thinks they, and their phone, are achieving the same results as the photographer with the digital SLR camera and a 400mm telephoto lens.  You cannot influence this limited understanding of the photography, however, refer to rule number two.

Some helpful tips:

  1. Have a reasonable understanding of the relationship between shutter speed, f-stop and ISO settings and know how to set and change these settings on your camera quickly and effectively.  You will not have time for fumbling with camera settings on this particular boat tour.

  2. Usually, when on a large boat, the boat will stay at a distance from all land and land-based subjects due to the concern of hitting submerged rocks.  You should have a lens that is at least capable of 250-300mm focal length.  Good choices would be a 28-300mm or, even better, an 80-400mm lens.

  3. Handheld lens use is best – there is no space on this boat for a tripod or even a monopod, or any clearance to maneuver a camera support of any type.

  4. Due to boat movement and holding the camera up to your face with nothing to steady you or the camera – expect to shoot at shutter speeds above 1/250 of a second (1/250 sec, ideally 1/500 sec and above).  A lens with built-in stabilization technology (VR – vibration reduction) will help with the boat movement (and your own shaking) to a degree.

  5. Activate the continuous shooting (motor drive) on your camera.  Often you will miss sharp focus on a single shot as the boat bobs…a burst of 3 to 5 shots will usually result in 1 or 2 of the burst photos being in focus (sharp).  Higher shutter speeds above 1/1000 sec can help with this.

  6. A good lens will have fast autofocus.  Pick and frame the subject, lock focus and fire quickly…you are up against people pushing, unpredictable boat movement and someone’s big head.  Consider setting your camera focus mode to 3D tracking or continuous focus to help with the fact that you are moving and the subject (wildlife) might be moving away from, or towards, you and your lens.

  7. Pro DLSR cameras and a large number of mid-range DSLR cameras handle higher ISO settings well these days.  Using an ISO of 400, 800 or even 1600 will assist in achieving faster shutter speeds for shooting from a boat.  Remember the higher the ISO setting the greater the image contrast and the more visible the image noise (grain) will become in the captured image.  This can be corrected (reduced) later using the appropriate software.

  8. Look like you are a photographer at work. Show your teeth and snarl at onlookers just a little…predatory animals and tourists alike have been known to back-off at the sight of large telephoto lenses and the gnashing teeth of a photographer.

Although boat tours like this can be frustrating and difficult from a photographer’s point-of-view, they are usually at reasonable cost and can provide good photo opportunities for the photographer who is well-skilled and prepared for the limitations of a busy tour boat.

Once the hour is up you will find yourself back on dry land on Bonaventure Island where you can spend hours photographing scenery, rustic buildings and Gannets along with a variety of other wildlife and eye-catching island flora.

 

 

 

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