MV Frances Barkley captain Ed McDonald takes time out from steering the passenger vessel to share some corny jokes.

Boat trip perfect day for candid pix

A trip on the MV Grances Barkley turned out to be the perfect opportunity to take pics for shooting aficionado Norman Silverstone.

My wife’s birthday present to me was a trip on the MV Frances Barkley, up the Alberni Inlet to Ucluelet and back. We boarded at 7:30 a.m. and took off at 8 a.m. I had my trusty Nikon ready with the wonderful 10–20mm wide-angle (15–30mm for 35mm film cameras) on and ready to go.

I started by shooting the boats in the harbour and then moved on to shooting the ship being loaded by the overhead crane. I was shooting using the widest angle, the 10mm.

Here I was standing right at the edge of the dock and could easily get the workmen, the crane loading, and the deck of the ship. My specs were ISO 250, shutter speed 1/160 of a second, aperture f 6.3, RAW @ 19.8MB.

We boarded and I used that wonderful lens to shoot on the deck, photographing the other passengers (I caught a woman dabbing her face with sunscreen lotion in spots and smiling), the restaurant. Everything looked so beautiful and perfect with that lens.

We chatted to the “yellow jackets”, volunteer ambassadors Bob and Ingo; they really do an incredible selling job on beautiful Port Alberni. Of course I photographed them, but I waited until I had the shot that I wanted rather than just blindly shooting. I learned that lesson early on: take the shot that you want, not the “hurry up and take the darn shot” that people will say when they see the camera pointed at them.

I went around the ship taking photographs and spent time on the lower deck, out of the wind, shooting over the side. By that time I had exchanged my wide-angle lens for my 70–210, f4.0 lens. What shots I was getting: loading raw logs onto a ship at Coulson Mill, whale tops, whales blowing water, forked whales’ tails disappearing beneath the briny sea.

Quite a few whales were spotted. Captain Ed McDonald, bless him, went off the route so that we could get close up and take some photographs of the whales.

With the telephoto lens on my camera I should have had the shutter speed equal to the millimetre measure of the lens. If I was using the 70mm lens I could get away with 1/60 of a second; with the telephoto lens zoomed to 150mm, the shutter speed should be at least 1/125 of a second.Body shake is magnified by the telephoto lens. If you have vibration reduction (VR) you will be able to shoot at slower speeds without having “body shake blur”.

The captain as telling a small group of us unlimited jokes, corny but fun. I did wonder who was steering when he was on his bridge telling us jokes, but it seems that the route is programmed into the computer.

What a day of pure enjoyment; one cannot help being invigorated.

Any questions?  E-mail me at or see me online at


Norman Silverstone teaches photography through North Island College and Eldercollege in Port


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