Are you interested in some of my photographic secrets?

From last year’s cruise with Holland America Line’s KONINGSDAM I picked my ten favourite shots. And then I started to write down how I achieved the final results.


The first picture of this blog post was taken in the early hours of the morning. After having left Amsterdam, KONINGSDAM was going to arrive in Flåm, its first Norwegian port if call. In fact the ship already entered the Sognefjord around midnight, but since the fjord is Norway’s longest it was not surprising to see that the whole night was needed to reach the destination.

It was raining heavily but no worries: it absolutely adds to the blue hour atmosphere. Since everybody was still asleep I put my camera on a tripod and made a selfie with the timer function.

Because I always shoot in RAW the colour temperature could be adapted in the post processing, to have a good balance between the yellow deck light and the blue hour.

Sometimes a photographer needs to have some luck too. This view for example could only be made because of the perfect location of my stateroom, at “the end of a row”, and not in the middle.

The picture was taken on a tripod with a low ISO setting of 200 and a long exposure of two seconds in order to obtain the movement in the waves. I also waited for the perfect moment, with a good balance between the electric deck light and the sky.

With my Capture One software I processed the RAW image with some extra layers to improve local areas, such as the sky. See below: the red part is the local adjustment.

Let’s move on to the third picture.

For me, being at sea is one of the most joyful moments of my life. It really makes me happy to see the ship smoothly paving her way through the waves. KONINGSDAM is one of the nice ships with a proper promenade deck, which allows a great view as long as you take the effort to go out and have a look.

For this picture I just watched down, over the railing, and took dozens of photographs with a high shutterspeed of 1/800. I used my ultra wide-angle lens to have a part of the name of the ship in the composition.

I have been there a couple of times during the cruise. This session was the best, because of the beautiful color of the water, and the low light, which really helped to give a more 3D look and feel.

When in Flåm I did an excursion with a brand new, high tech vessel, the VISION OF THE FJORDS. Earlier I wrote a blogpost about her.

This picture was taken in the magnificent Nærøyfjord. I was really fascinated by the passengers being enchanted in this wonderful Norwegian scenery.

To basic picture was really extremely flat. No contrast, no vibrance. See below:

The basic, unprocessed photo.

I used ten extra layers to enhance parts of the image, step by step. Tke sky was made darker, some people’s black clothes where made lighter and the green grass got a little boost in saturation. The mountain on the left was made lighter too, and the rock structure was sharpened and got a clarity boost.

After the trip to the Nærøyfjord I walked a bit in the Flåm area and found a floating pontoon on the opposite side of the bay. It offered a very good view into the Aurlandsfjord and I loved the low angle. The weather was certainly not good. However the intermittent rain created some small cliffhanger clouds, which were really perfect to capture this scene with this veteran car ferry.

Here again I used several layers for local adjustments.

After our day in Stavanger (where I did the hike to the Preikestolen) I was invited to a VIP reception in the Crow’s Nest. I was talking photography with one of the officers when suddenly we saw the first glimpse of a rainbow. The Germany lady-officer, herself a very keen photographer, immediately said she would rush to her cabin to take her camera. I did the same, and honestly, you should have seen the faces of some passengers I met in the stairway, as if they were passed by a shooting star.

When I was in my stateroom the rainbow had fully developed. One minute later it was gone.

Again it was good to have a wide-angle lens. Without this 18mm I would not have been able to capture the whole arch. Nevertheless I could have used a 12mm, because it was a double rainbow. As you can see a part of the second arch is missing.

In the post-processing I enhanced the rainbow with the clarity function.

In Kristiansand the sun finally came back, and especially at the time of departure passengers enjoyed themselves on the outer decks. Suddenly I saw guests having some kind of a cocktail party on their private balcony. It was fun to see nothing more than the hands.

Photography is always about seeing things that others do not see. Awareness is of huge importance. Take for example this very elegant cloud formation in Oslo. I wonder how many of the guests saw this.

As soon as realized the photographic potential of it I ran away to be in a better position to make a composition with ship and clouds.

During the post production I played with the “clarity” tool, to accentuate the effect.

One hour and a half later the clouds had changed completely, and as I walked on Oslo’s waterfront I saw this beautiful cloud above the local ferries. During ten minutes I worked on making good pictures with ferry and cloud, until suddenly a group of kids walked in front of my camera. I knew this was going to be THE picture.

For me the cloud was the most important to make this picture. Therefore I locally enhanced the sky, by adding saturation to the blue. In most photo software packages you can adjust the saturation of one single colour by using the colour picker. I added a layer over the sky and only enhanced the sky. Without layer everything blue in the picture would have gotten a higher degree of saturation, and that is not what I wanted. 

You can see how the blue became more saturated and darker, however, without influencing the rest of the image, because of the use of layers.

To end this list of ten favorites I wanted to show this one. As such the picture is not so special. It is just a couple of houses in Oslo. But I remember how I was attracted by them, as from the moment I passed the street. I cannot explain why, but these houses were acting like a magnet. I had to photograph them. Was it the colours? The shadows? The wrapped car? I don’t know. It took me a minute to come closer and to step back again, until I found a satisfactory angle.

I hope you enjoyed this little top ten of personal favourites.

Of course these pictures were more what I would call creative freelance work. The real job was to take professional pictures of the ship’s interiors and the life onboard. Just to give you an idea, with my Nikon D800 I used 165 gigabyte of SD-card memory during this single week.

Text and photos: Mike Louagie