Cruising The Caribbean

In February of 2016 I was given the opportunity to work for Thomson on a Thomson Cruise campaign around the Caribbean. The campaign was linked to the hashtag #NotForMe. The idea around it was to persuade people that may think a cruise isn’t for them, but let us change your mind. It was our job to make sure we just had fun, experience the best the islands had to offer and show this through our images and video’s. Sound’s hard right? lol 😉

I’ve never been on a cruise before, I’ve also never been to the caribbean. Of course I was very excited by the prospect of spending 7 days cruising around the Sunny Caribbean.

The cruise would start off in Barbados, then a day at sea cruising to the furthest island on our itinerary, The British Virgin Islands, followed the next day to St Maarten then to St Kitts, Antigua, St Vincent & the Grenadines (my favourite island) and then finishing off back at Barbados.

Caribbean Map copy
The Caribbean cruise locations.

Arriving at the port to see the ship for the first time was an exciting feeling knowing it was going to be our home for the next 7 days. The ship may not have been as big as many other ships we saw, but it was by far more romantic looking ship that made you feel very nostalgic, if that makes sense.

I’ll mention this now, the staff were AMAZING!! Everyone went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed, from the beautiful girls on the excursion desk to the amazing cleaner that tidied up after me and my good friend Pat who came with me. (that was some task).

The ship was still quite old looking inside. Certain parts of the ship had been renovated, the new refreshing look was modern clean and perfect. The cafe was the new refurbished part as well as being only a handful of areas where you could get a half decent wifi connection. (FRUSTRATING!!)

Our first thoughts were still conflicting thoughts. The ship looked nice, the staff great. However the average age of the passengers must have been 60+. The cliche of this being for old people was certainly true so far. Even more so when the Butlins like speaker went through a list of activities on the ship over a tannoy, the one that stood out was a seminar about “frozen shoulders“. Me and Pat looked at each other with eyes wide opened thinking “OH NO” whilst grinning and shaking our heads. It was all definitely aimed at the older generation.

But we are here and still excited about the whole trip. In for a penny, in for a pound, right?


British Virgin Islands

The first island we experienced was indeed paradise. When I pictured the Caribbean, it was views like this that I instantly thought of. This was a long golden sand beach as far as the eyes could see. The turquoise sea was crystal clear as pelicans dived into the waves to catch their lunch. The sea was quite rough due to storms happening in the U.S. But this didn’t stop us from jumping in and having fun. You’ve just got to.

Palm Tree Beach
Long Bay Beach, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Long Bay Beach Tortola
Great time of year to go, so quiet.

St Maarten

Since watching a documentary about extreme airports a few years ago on T.V. I saw this beach called Mahon in St Maarten. The runway is right behind me and you can see the pilot and the passengers, you’re that close to the aircraft.

It’s very intimidating but equally exhilarating. You can see the plane sway left and right to get into position to land as it approaches you. I wanted to take this shot to show how near you are to the aircraft. The waves were also quite strong on this day so I needed the Aquatech Housing to protect my Canon camera against the waves that came up to my body. Big thanks to Wex Photographic for lending me this housing for my cruise.

So as you can imagine quite a difficult shot to capture when you had waves, composition, planes and people to contend with.

Mahon Beach Plane & Legs
Mahon Beach, St Maarten, Caribbean.

Out of all the shots I took in the Caribbean I think this is one the shots that encapsulates paradise.

I always think it’s crucial to capture people in your shots especially when it’s people alone. It gives the image a sense of scale and purpose without being to busy. What’s more beautiful than a gorgeous model walking on golden sands into a stunning turquoise sea with eclectic blue sky and white fluffy clouds that add depth. Screams out….. HOLIDAY!!!!

Lady On Paradise Beach Portrait
Mullet Bay, St Maarten, Caribbean.

St Kitts

Since I’ve been doing photography one of my main goals was to shoot under water. Thanks to Wex Photographic I was able to borrow a Aquatech Underwater Housing for my Canon 5D MK III. The first 3-4 days in the Caribbean the water was very choppy due to the storms in the U.S. but as soon as they calmed I was straight in the water trying out some shots.

My friend Alex was happy to model for me and dance underwater. I decided to put all the settings on automatic including focusing. This meant I was able to concentrate on capturing images and letting the camera do all the work as I was a amateur in this genre of photography.

When the sun hit the water it transformed everything underwater. I decided to rotate this shot upside down after some advice from a friend to give it a magical feel. Great advice Pat 😉

Mermaid Alex-2
Alex dancing underwater in St Kitts, Caribbean.

When we were leaving St Kitts on our Cruise Ship “The Celebration” rain clouds were moving in. When you have rain clouds and a sunset at the same time 99.9% of the time you’re guaranteed amazing colours during the sun setting. This sun set did not disappoint and with me able to shoot the horizon, I knew the colours would be bouncing of the ocean to give me double the satisfaction.

I used a polarizer for this shot to help me get more colours from the sky. I used f/8 to get most of the shot in focus but also trying not to under expose too much as it will create more noise in the image than I wanted. Trying to get that equal balance is always tricky hence why I shoot many of the same shots on different exposures and then see in Lightroom which will be the best one for editing.

Sunset St Kitts
Cruising away from St Kitts, Caribbean.

Antigua

Flying in helicopters is such a great experience wherever you are, but doing this over the stunning island of Antigua raised it to a whole new level. To be able to capture the landscape and those breathtaking blues in the sea was an encounter I was looking forward to achieving.

Now flying in helicopters does have it’s difficulties. What equipment to take as you’re limited to space, movement from the helicopter and glare from the windows if you’re shooting from inside. I was lucky to be seated in the front seat next to the pilot. I needed a very fast shutter speed to capture every thing as still as possible. I didn’t know which way the helicopter would turn. So 1/500 sec was perfect.

Thanks to The Caribbean Helicopters Tours for flying us over this breathtaking Island.

Antigua Heli Ride
Flying around Antigua, Caribbean.

For this shot I wanted to capture the essence of flying and the wealthy parts of this island.

Capturing the instrument panel and parts of the front of the helicopter gives you the feel of being inside yourself. Try to remember it’s not always about the land/seascapes but the activity you’re taking part in.

Flying over Falmouth Harbour certainly made you realise the wealth that was on part’s of this island with huge yachts moored up in the harbor. The colour of the water in the harbor with the greens and clouds, gave this image great depth.

If I still had any unwanted glare from the windows after shooting then I would use Lightroom or Photoshop to remove them.

Helicopter Harbour
Helicopter Tour over Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, Caribbean.

St Vincent & The Grenadines

Their is something special when it comes to sailing boats. I think it’s the freedom to go where you want when you want. What a way to explore this beautiful planet.

I took this shot on a catamaran, so my shutter speed needed to be reasonably fast to prevent blurring from my movement of the sailing boat and the catamaran.

I thought a lot about the rule of thirds here, and it was crucial to capture the boat where it is with the dip of the mountains in the background and the peaks lined where they are to enhance the rule of thirds in this composition. My wide angle lens helped fit this all in.

St Vincent Sailing Boat
The beautiful view of St Vincent, Caribbean.

I took this on a beach where the rainforest met the black volcanic sand. Such an unreal view to see. Gorgeous green rainforest behind me with the black volcanic sand I was standing on meeting the turquoise/blue sea.

The sun was starting to set, so I had to think of a couple of options in taking this shot. I wanted to keep everything exposed so again my shutter speed needed to be reasonably fast so I didn’t blow out the setting sun in the sky. Also with the fast shutter speed I could capture the movement of the calm sea and the stillness of the Catamaran. The distance of the catamaran was quite far so I used my heavy but awesome 70-200mm. Again in this composition making use of the rule of thirds with the Catamaran.

Sunset Boat Sq
Sunset in St Vincent, Caribbean.

Barbados

If their is one thing I’ll never forget, then it has to be swimming with Turtles of the coast of Barbados. These creatures of the sea are so majestic and elegant in the way they swim. They were very friendly even though they look like they’re very miserable, ha.

With the fish following them around it made for great focal points for my camera to focus on with it on automatic settings using the Aquatech Underwater Housing for my Canon 5D MK III.

I could have literally stayed here all day capturing these magnificent creatures.

Turtrle & Fish_
Happy Turtle (well kind of) Barbados, Caribbean.

I cant help but look at these images of the turtles underwater and think I’ve taken them from inside a swimming pool as the water is so crystal clear with the vibrant blue.

With most of my images taken underwater, when the sun came out it made focusing very easy on automatic setting. But when the sun went in I think it’s at this point manually focusing would be better used and when the turtles came up close. In automatic it was struggling to focus quickly enough to get the shot I wanted.

However, that being said, the outcome of all my images underwater have been a personal success and I’m sure with more experience it will just get better.

Come Back Turtle Sq
Rich ocean, Barbados, Caribbean.

Verdict

The cruise had come to an end and I must say we had a fantastic time and met some exceptional people along the way. Some I still keep in-touch with.

Yes the cruise was catered more for the older generation, yes the internet was shocking and yes there was no night life to enjoy on the islands due to cruising to the next island over night. But to be honest, the good certainly outweighed the bad. The cruise was worth it just for the excursions. This was definitely an experience I will never forget for as long as I live.

Now I understand why so many people cruise year, after year, after year.

Thank you Thomson you have converted me to cruise again #DefinitelyForMe.

Also a BIG thanks to WEX-photographic

www.wexphotographic.com


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Thank you for the support of my sponsors.

Manfrotto, Cotswold Outdoor & Lucroit

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Byrne Photography

Hello my name is Sean Byrne, I'm a passionate landscape/travel photographer and social media influencer from the UK. I have a passion for taking photos of the great outdoors, whether that's in the UK or around the world. I've been a photographer for over 4 years now. I'm also self taught after becoming addicted to photography on Instagram. Now more than 4 years on I have collaborated with National Geographic, Waitrose, Travel Alberta, The London Helicopter Company, Swiss Air, Iceland Air, Austria Tourism, Enterprise, Sony Xperia and many more. I've also been a speaker at Blog Stock and Inflow Travel Summit. Thank you for taking the time to read, I hope you enjoy my blog and all my past adventures. May this journey continue ...

3 thoughts on “Cruising The Caribbean”

  1. Thomson chose well Sean. This is a great write up.

    Your photos are, as expected, really fantastic. I particularly love the underwater shots. They’re amazing! Looks like you visited some beautiful placess.

    My family would certainly give a cruise a go, but I just can’t get my head around it. They can’t even get me on a barge for the weekend. Not converted. Not yet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thanks Elaine. You would love a cruise, the places you get to visit are breathtaking and worth the hours spent on a boat.
      I loved the underwater shots as well, tricky to get use to at first but so magical to shoot wonderful majestic creatures underwater including the lovely Alex 😂😂

      Like

  2. Impressive photographs!! Love the underwater ones… specially the light on the upside down one!!! I’ve always imagined that the light underwater produces distorted photographs… it doesn’t happen with good cameras, does it?

    Like

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