Raffaele Rubattino Ferry Night Photography

My wife and I just returned from doing a two week bus tour of Italy. Part of our adventure was an overnight sail from Naples to Palermo aboard the Raffaele Rubattino ferry. This article, Raffaele Rubattino Ferry Night Photography, shares a selection of images and provides some tips about night photography aboard cruise ships.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/5, 1/20, ISO-3200

Like most travellers, I captured images of our accommodations during our trip. Not surprisingly the inside of a cabin on a ferry designed for short, overnight sailings is not very photogenic.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/5, 1/100, ISO-3200

Other than documenting the close quarters, images like these do little to fire up one’s creativity. Being out on a nighttime deck is another situation altogether.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 11 mm, efov 29.7 mm, f/4, 1/10, ISO-3200

When doing this type of night photography hand-held, the most important thing is to understand your camera gear. This holds true whether it is your cell phone, a point and shoot camera, or an interchangeable lens camera.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/20, ISO-3200

In my case, I travelled to Italy with a single Nikon 1 J5 and two 1 Nikkor lenses. These included the 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 and 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6. From experience, I knew that I could use either lens hand-held at the wide angle end with shutter speeds as slow as 1/8th of a second. I also knew that I wouldn’t have too much of an issue with image noise as long as I kept my ISO at a maximum of ISO-3200.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/8, ISO-3200

One of my objectives was to make sure that my on board images had deep depth-of-field. Dealing with the low light conditions when shooting hand-held was another consideration. So, I decided to shoot using wide open apertures at the widest angle focal length possible.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4.5, 1/10, ISO-3200

If you examine the first four images in this article you’ll see a number of different composition techniques were used. In the first two photographs I incorporated railings on the ferry to add perspective and depth to the images. The third image uses a herringbone pattern of shipping containers to lead a viewer’s eye into the photograph. A high contrast V-shape in the last photograph is used to focus a reader’s eye. The key is to always look for something to help create a feeling of depth and a natural eye flow.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/40, ISO-3200

After capturing a few traditional, but predictable, photographs of the harbour at night, I began to look for more interesting subject matter. This led me to create some photographs of the deck walkways on the ferry.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4.5, 1/30, ISO-3200

I did my best to allow other passengers to clear the area so I could make the Raffaele Rubattino ferry the ‘hero’ of the photographs. Images like these also help create context for the photographs of the harbour as well as a sense of scale.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/13, ISO-3200

As I continued exploring the deck areas, my eye was attracted to various shapes, angles and lines.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/15, ISO-3200

I looked for ways to create high contrast images as this approach would help to highlight the details of the vessel.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/25, ISO-3200

The lighting on the various decks was at an acceptable level given the camera gear I had with me. This allowed me to capture some colourful details of the Raffaele Rubattino ferry as you’ll see in the next few images.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/30, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/15, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4.5, 1/30, ISO-3200

I also used various composition techniques such as corner exits, as illustrated in the photograph below.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/25, ISO-3200

Finding curves and angles always appeal to me as you can see in the next couple of images.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/30, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4.5, 1/20, ISO-3200

My favourite image from my time on the Raffaele Rubattino ferry is illustrated below. I loved the repeating lines and the high contrast effect shooting up against the night sky.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/10, ISO-3200

Many folks pan small sensor cameras as not being capable under lower light conditions. As you can see from the images in this article, as long as these types of cameras are used to shoot RAW files within their ISO limits, some interesting images can be created. Using wide open apertures along with wide angle focal lengths can generate very good depth-of-field under challenging lighting conditions with small sensor cameras.

Technical Note:
The photographs in this article were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were created from RAW files using my standard process in post, and are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/4, 1/25, ISO-3200

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