Huge Ships

Huge Ships

Hang out at the coast to watch birds and you can't help but notice all the huge ships. Giant ships. Enormous ships bringing whims and necessities to our shores. And we send chemicals and goods manufactured in the US out to the world from the Port of Houston and surrounding areas. 

And it is not as if I go there to photograph ships; most of the time I notice the ships when the birds are not doing anything interesting. Sometimes one will be so bright or fast or strange you can't pass up the opportunity to capture the moment.

Typical traffic from the Gulf of Mexico up to Port of Houston. Notice they all pass by the Texas City Dike From MarineTraffic.com

Typical traffic from the Gulf of Mexico up to Port of Houston. Notice they all pass by the Texas City Dike

From MarineTraffic.com

There is a nice procession of ships past the Texas City Dike, but also a lot of interesting traffic down at the Freeport Harbor Channel near Quintana at Bryan Beach. 

New Caledonia Maru  Sony 700 with 70-400mm 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 1600

New Caledonia Maru 

Sony 700 with 70-400mm 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 1600

The New Caledonia Maru is Japanese owned bulk container ship. And it is huge. I took three separate shots and stitched them together in Photoshop. Google tells us she is 190m long; that is just over 623 feet for those of us metrically-challenged.

And for some perspective, the Turning Torso building in Malmo, Sweden is 190m tall with 54 stories. 

CMA CGM Tarpon container ship headed for the Port of Houston Sony 700 with 70-400mm 1/1600 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1000

CMA CGM Tarpon container ship headed for the Port of Houston

Sony 700 with 70-400mm 1/1600 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1000

CMA CGM is a French container and shipping company; the third largest in the world. It owns the famous Marco Polo ship which is 396m long (1299 feet) and was the largest container ship in the world until Maersk built a bigger one. The Tarpon was headed to the Port of Houston with all its bounty.

Container ships are ubiquitous around the world. They carry stacks of truck/rail car sized containers of goods commonly called TEUs or twenty-foot equivalent units. The ship's size is limited by having sufficiently large main engines, and ports/terminals adequate to handle them. Plus, maximum widths of main waterways such as the Panama Canal, Suez Canal and the Singapore Straights. 

Fuel oil costs have also been a constraint, but at the moment with lower oil prices we have super tankers being used as floating storage vessels.  Shipping and transport are fascinating subjects; just think of the logistics involved!

MSC Shannon only partly loaded Sony 700 with 70-400mm 1/1000 sec. f/7.1 ISO 400

MSC Shannon only partly loaded

Sony 700 with 70-400mm 1/1000 sec. f/7.1 ISO 400

This container ship from the Mediterranean Shipping Company got a bit of post-processing treatment. The MSC Shannon is rather old and small by today's standards. She was built in 1991 and flies the flag of Panama. But the company has bragging rights to the largest container ship to date, the MSC Oscar; it is 395.4m (1297.24 feet) long and 59m (193.57 feet) wide. 

If you are looking at the EXIF data for the shots, don't pay much attention. I usually look up from the birds and do ships with whatever settings I have. If it looks too dark or light I will adjust. So many of these are three or four shot panoramas and the more important factor is getting overlapping shots that can be stitched together.  

Maersk Catherine - serious post-processing to make her look ghostly Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1250

Maersk Catherine - serious post-processing to make her look ghostly

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1250

Maersk ships are always a bright blue with that seven-point star on the top. The blue can look almost turquoise in certain light. This is the Maersk Catherine heading for the Port of Houston on Jan 3; she is a oil/chemical tanker. And looks rather beat up along the sides. 

It was off and on cloudy that day at Texas City Dike with a huge amount of ship traffic. I don't know if the weather had caused them to stack up in the Gulf but there were huge ships everywhere you looked. 

Off to warmer waters and sunny beaches Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/8.0 ISO 1000

Off to warmer waters and sunny beaches

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/8.0 ISO 1000

Even fancy cruise ships pass by. This is the Emerald Princess leaving from Bayport Terminal at Seabrook and headed to the Western Caribbean. There are three different cruise lines operating out of the Port of Houston, and another from Galveston. We saw a cruise ship in the channel late one evening, all sparkly and white in the moonlight. 

The photos came out awful. Tip: Super slow shutter speed because of no light on a moving object does not produce a clear photo. 

Thorco Discovery being escorted by Pilot boat out to the Gulf of Mexico Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/7.1 ISO 500

Thorco Discovery being escorted by Pilot boat out to the Gulf of Mexico

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/7.1 ISO 500

At the Quintana Jetty, the ships that pass in the Freeport Channel are... close.  The Thorco Discovery's home port is St. John's so I surmise it stays around in the Caribbean. 

Hai! Hope you enjoyed your visit to Texas Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/7.1 ISO 500

Hai! Hope you enjoyed your visit to Texas

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/7.1 ISO 500

This is what I mean by close... These big ships can operate with an astonishingly small crew; just a dozen or more. For a real eye-opener, check out Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car and Food on Your Plate

Another really cool book I want to read is How to Avoid Huge Ships. I am doing pretty well since I haven't been run over by one, but good preparation is key. 

Big tanker leaving the Brazosport area Sony A700 with 70-400mm G 1/6400 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1600

Big tanker leaving the Brazosport area

Sony A700 with 70-400mm G 1/6400 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1600

Another panorama shot of a really big ship in the Freeport Harbor Channel from last March. This one is a oil/chemical tanker, the Diamond Orchid. Notice the warning on the bridge "Dangerous Cargo". She flies a Singapore flag and used to be called the Golden Orchid. I have no idea why these ships change names, but I see it often when I do Google searches.

Old shrimp boat moored at Freeport  Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/1600 sec. f/6.3 ISO 400

Old shrimp boat moored at Freeport 

Sony A77 II with DT 16-50mm 1/1600 sec. f/6.3 ISO 400

Not all the ships I see are huge. This old shrimper was docked at Freeport, near that old paint store I love to photograph. The sign caught my eye first; it must be related to all that piping that crosses the deck. 

Bait shop on Hwy 332 headed to Surfside Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1000

Bait shop on Hwy 332 headed to Surfside

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1000

And not all the ships are out to sea. This boat-shaped bait shop has a great marshy puddle in front where I have seen Green Herons and Yellow Crowned Night Herons. One of these days I am going to go inside. 

Related adventures: Battleship of Texas, Bolivar Peninsula

Do you like to watch the ships pass? Do you want to go to sea? How about a nice cruise to a warm and sunny locale? Let me know in the comments.

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