Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Herring Fleet Abstracts

Over the last several years, I have looked forward to the spring not only for the warmer and more pleasant weather, but also the arrival of the fishing vessels of the herring fleet along the Halifax waterfront. The waterfront in winter is usually quite sparse, with few if any interesting vessels berthed in the downtown area that I walk along on my way to work, and even during the summer one is not guaranteed of an interesting sailboat or yacht to break the tedium. The herring fleet over the last few years has guaranteed at least a handful, if not more, of brightly coloured ships big enough to provide varied photographic opportunities - especially useful after a winter in which I felt I was suffering from some photographic withdrawal. In my case, because they are usually static and alongside when I pass by, I have tended to abstract and detail shots, rather than the more documentary shots that I would typically take of boats and ships.

An image from this year: Morning Star's hull is strengthened with these ribs near the stern. I like the angles and reflections. 
When I am passing by in the morning, it is often calm (or relatively so) in the shelter of the jetties, which makes good conditions for reflections on the surface of the water. In the case above, the red bottom paint shows through the white and blue reflections from the waterline and hull. I probably had to apply a gradient filter in post production of this image to balance, somewhat, the hull against the darker reflection. It also looks as though I may have used my thirds grid to help in composition.

I have also tended toward some minimalism at times, perhaps attempting my own take on Barnett Newman's "Voice of Fire" in the National Gallery in Ottawa. You know the one.

I could call this "Herring of Fire" perhaps. Maybe "Red Herring"?
I don't think anyone will be offering me millions of dollars for mine, though. If the National Gallery needs to use up their budget before government fiscal year end, though, please feel free to contact me - I could negotiate my price upwards to the necessary amount.

Looking back year over year, the same subjects appear in my photos, but there is always something different even when looking at other images of Morning Star:

Morning Star from last year, this time showing some rust, and her load markings, both of which are missing from the first image above.
A different angle on Morning Star again, this time with ripples distorting the reflection of her waterline. The red stands out better in the sun.
Sometimes the ship isn't as up to date on its maintenance and cleaning, and we get to add some green to the mix. Plus, roman numerals! Classy!
It is fairly easy to pick out the images that were taken on sunny days (like 3 of the 5 images above), but often the more subdued lighting of an overcast morning works just as well.

I don't always aim for the waterline - sometimes there are nice ropes and chains to add to the mix.

Occasionally I allow other floating objects to intrude on the image, in this case some tire bumpers.

Sometimes buoys and bumpers add to the colour mix.
In this case, drips from the ship's bilge pump disturb the waterline reflection.
I once took a series of photography night courses from a local instructor who likes to direct his lead-in lines to the various corners of his images. Occasionally (OK, maybe frequently) this crops up in my images as well, now.

Look, ma! Corners! Three of them!
Sometimes, it is interesting to see what different compositions you can get from the same area on the same boat. In this case, I demonstrate with three different angles on the prow of one particular red boat. I can't decide which I like the best.

Here I went for symmetry.
In this one I went for considerable negative space to the bottom of the image. And to heck with symmetry!
Here, I went for a corner..actually, three corners! Two aren't so obvious. I must have been careful with this one to get everything to line up! I also love the effect with the hourglass formed by the load line numbers as they reflect on the water.
My use of vignetting in post production of my images is perhaps most noticeable in the three images above. While software correcting for lens distortion removes vignetting, I often add it back into the image because I like it for some reason. Perhaps it draws the eye back to the centre of the image, when I choose to centre my subject.

Same area on a ship, but different colours this time. 
I will finish off this post with an image of one of the few wooden ships left in the fleet. I think the planking adds to the image by providing more texture, especially in this case where the ship has been chipped and repainted so many time. 

Most of the herring fleet is currently built of steel, but there is occasionally one or more holdovers from the days of wooden ships. It is perhaps fitting that her load line uses roman numerals. Otherwise, I went fairly minimalist for this one. The painted waterline is slightly underwater and is reduced to a thin white line.
I have applied similar treatments to other ships and yachts on the waterfront, but I will save those for another post.


  1. I love these. I can never resist a good waterline shot myself, but yours are much nicer!

    1. Thanks! And here I thought I was the only one with that particular fetish. :-)