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.
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.
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 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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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