Past Pics

Once upon a time (and I am talking last century here), cameras could not produce colour images, or should I say that photography was a monochrome activity. Like so many others of my generation I have a whole stack of images of family members who are no longer with us, and all of these images are in black and white. I have to admit I have a soft spot for mono images, they can be extremely atmospheric and their quality seemingly does not deteriorate as quickly as a colour print. Ship photographs in black and white are not as rare as you would think, and even in the time when colour photography was normal a lot of professional and press photography was in black and white. Over the years I have picked up some odds and sods and I want to put them up here for posterity. At some point Google will spider this page and they will become a part of the internet and hopefully survive long after I have popped my clogs.

Royal Navy.

I somehow acquired some images of the Royal Navy in Malta, and particularly prominent were 2 images of HMS Courageous.  She was sunk by U29 on 17 February 1939 with the loss of 519 of her crew. Originally built as a the lead ship of  Courageous-class cruisers she participated in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in November 1917 and after the war was converted into an aircraft carrier between June 1924 and February 1928. How do I know it is Courageous? It was written on the back of the pic. 

HMS Courageous
HMS Rodney and HMS Courageous

The fleet is in. This image shows elements of the Royal Navy supposedly in Grand Harbour, Malta. It may also be back to front. Unfortunately I cannot ID any of the vessels. 

The image below is part of a Christmas card that was amongst the collection. The Spithead Review of 1953 was a large one, and our RFA was in “Line H”. A number of the ships names are familiar to me, but notables are: Amerigo Vespucci, Pretoria Castle, HMS Eagle, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Vanguard, Andes, THV Patricia, HMS Sheffield, HMS Maidstone, RMS Mauretania, etc. There is a nice pdf at that shows the ships names and layout of the fleet. 

Quite by accident I have an old Illustrated London News from 1953 that has a section on the Coronation Review of 1953, and there is an image of part of the fleet with the RMS Mauretania steaming between the columns en route for Southampton.  (Image is 1500 x 675 px)  

Not all of the images that I got were from the Navy, a number featured passenger ships too. It is either the Armadale or Kenilworth Castle. 

This is either Winchester or Carnarvon Castle as built, or possibly Warwick Castle. Unfortunately the image did not have a name written on the back.

Two more unidentified Union-Castle ships in Southampton.

The same collection had the following two images:

3 funnel ship in floating dock. Possibly RMS Majestic in Southampton? Unfortunately the image is damaged and  I will see whether I can restore parts of it.

RMS Aquitania in New York.  Unfortunately I am unable to find a larger version of this image in my files.

Many years ago I was given this image of the Queen Elizabeth in Cape Town during the 2nd World War. I was never able to scan it one piece because it was wider than the scanner was which is why it has a definite “join” in the image. 

I was also given this image that they said was of HMS Vanguard, however Vanguard had a transom stern and she clearly does not, It is actually HMS Howe (you can read the name on the ship if you look close enough).

And another that I was given: MV Diplomat. 

I also managed to scrounge some ship images that were taken in Cape Town, the physical images themselves are roughly 50 x 50 mm and they scanned quite well but within the limits of the originals.  They were also scratched and battered, but are better than nothing. I will try clean them up as best I can. (images open are 800×600)

Pendennis Castle
Windsor Castle
City of Exeter
Maasdam or Ryndam
Angelina Lauro
SA Trader,  Transporter or  Pioneer
SA Shipper, ex Clan Robertson.
Unidentified (Harrisons Line?)
Unidentified Lykes Lines
Patris Ex Bloemfontein Castle
Arundel or Windsor Castle
Unknown Mitsui OSK ship

DRW © 2020. Recreated 30/05/2020. Unfortunately I am unable to credit the images to anybody as I do not know the names of the original photographers, however I would like to thank them for recording this slice of shipping history. Special thanks to Ken Malcom for his ID’s of some of the ships.

Don’t Forget the Mauritius

This past week I was going through my vast horde of ship images to find some material to post on facebook, and came across an old favourite of mine that dates back to when I went to Mauritius on board the Achille Lauro at the end of 1986. I do have a blog post about that voyage at a@s, but almost none of the images associated with Mauritius are on that post. I was really more interested in the ships than the destination, and I was limited by how much film I had with me and the small fortune that it cost to process when I got home. I seem to recall that I had some sort of voucher for Kodak slide film and did not buy any more. Kodak pulled out of South Africa shortly afterwards so I was lucky to even get my slides back. The images here are mostly scanned from slides so quality can be iffy.

Getting back to the subject; we arrived in Mauritius reasonably early in the morning and I managed this image which I am quite proud of.

I had booked for a short tour that would take in the Pamplemousse Botanical Gardensa short stop at the aquarium, a local hotel and a shop that sold ship models. The coach ride was quite interesting but I was not very impressed by what I saw of Port Louis (which was almost nothing). 

Along the way we passed a cemetery, and I managed to snag a pic, little knowing that so many years down the line I would be visiting these cities of the dead regularly.

From there it was onto the aquarium and the ship models (which were way out of my bank balance) before finally hitting the beach at the local hotel for a quick coke and a paddle. I am not really a beach person, and laying around getting skin cancer is not my idea of fun. But, it was pretty and the sea was warm and the suave tourists in their tans were seemingly undisturbed by our coachload of rubber neckers. My excellent memory has just reminded me that we visited the Trou Aux Biches Hotel  but whether the images below are of it I do not recall. The images may also be back to front; I have no way to tell. 

And then we packed our goodies and headed back to the harbour and the relative coolness of our big blue ship. There is something about returning to the vessel after being on land the whole day that is very satisfying, When the QE2 was alongside they used to hang a sign above her one gangway with “Welcome Home” written on it but the Achille Lauro did not quite do it the same way. I went down to the cabin and probably changed my sweat drenched shirt and disembarked again, intent on finding a small boat to take me around the harbour. A suitable boat was found and haggled over and we set off for a quick look around. I call this image a “FBS” (Famous Bow Shot).

Unfortunately the sky was starting to cloud up and I had to curtail my look around as a result but this brings me to the ship that this post is about. 

Alongside one of the piers was a small centre island cargo ship, and she was a real classic. I managed to snag one great pic of her and it is one of my favourite ship images. The other image of her did not come out very well but I have included it here anyway. The ship is appropriately enough called Mauritius (IMO 5229833.), and she was completed in 1955  by J.L.Meyer, Papenburg  for Colonial Steamships Co. Ltd., Rogers + Co, Port Louis. She was 2.092 GRT, 2.300 dw, 1.650bhp 4SA 8Cy. Deutz engines, and could reach 11.5kn and could carry 142 passengers, and was built to operate between Ceylon, Mauritius, Madagascar and South Africa. The vented kingposts aft seem to point to her carrying livestock or possibly fresh fruit or perishables.    

She has long passed into history, and there is not a lot of information out there about her so I am hoping that one day somebody who wants to know more about her will see this image and do the “Aaah….. that’s the one” thing and help keep her memory alive. The rest of the harbour was not very interesting, lots of those long line fishing vessels that were regular callers in Durban. 

In the image above you can see the twin blue funnels of my temporary home from home sticking out. The image below is of a naval vessel although it is difficult to really make it out, the building behind it was interesting, I heard that it used to be a prison at one point but that could just be a myth. 

And then we turned around and headed back to the quayside where the Achille was taking on bunkers or water.

Then it was time for me to be back on board and I bade my skipper farewell and paid him my rupees and climbed the Achille’s gangplank and we started to make ready for departure. The two images below show the tug “Winnie” as well as a bunkering boat.

Because of a strong wind they struggled to get the Achille “off the wall” and even had the small pilot launch pushing and providing moral support. Then we were free and our bows cleared the harbour and we headed back to South Africa.  I sailed on the Achille Lauro over 30 years ago, and while she was not the greatest ship afloat, she was my first ship and she was unique; just like the MV Mauritius was unique.  I never really felt like returning to Mauritius, and much preferred Seychelles and I visited it in 1989 but that is really a different story altogether.  

DRW © 2020. Created 11/04/2020.

Scanning the Slides

When I was still photographing ships in the pre-digital days I was shooting with slide film. There were many advantages to it at the time. The large images displayed on a screen were amazing to see and much better than the standard small prints that were the result of shooting with film. Pricewise it was slightly cheaper to shoot and process 36 slides than it was to develop and print 36 prints. And of course the prints were only as good as the operator of the printing machine. When the digital era arrived I really wanted to convert my slides into a digital format and the first results that I still have is a contact sheet that a friend of mine made on a professional film scanner at his work in 1999. Unfortunately the resulting images, while excellent copies were only 640×480 in size.

A few years later I bought a “Genius” flatbed scanner that could scan slides, and the results were mixed. Because many of the images had vast expanses of blue water in them I could not get a semi decent outcome because the scanner lamp had a slight blue tinge to it and rendered the images less than perfect. The scanner wasn’t faulty either because I even sat with a technician from the company and we were just not able to get a perfect result, or one as good as the contact sheet above. 

I never gave up though and at one point I bought a high end Epson scanner and it could scan slides and negatives but the interface tended to be somewhat iffy. The end result was much better and in some case I had a lot of success with the scanner, so much so that 90% of the ship and cruise images on my blogs were created with that scanner. I did not scan everything though, some images just came out badly and and others I skipped because there was too much to do. 

The scanner did produce some amazing results from negatives, and while I did not even tackle them as a project I really should have, although I never used an SLR for prints.

The images above are both scanned from the 1986 negatives. 

In 2010 I bought a dedicated slide/negative scanner that had just come onto the market and frankly it was a waste of time and money. Surely there were other ways to convert slides to digital? 

Since the advent of the digital camera (and high end cell phone camera too) there are other possible ways to scan slides and when I was in South Africa I did some experimenting. The end results were interesting although some images were a disaster due to focusing issues. My “rig” looked something like this:  

I have a small battery powered pocket slide viewer that I bought in the USA, and it formed the display part of my machine.

I also have a cut down enlarger head stand that enables me to get up close and personal with a document (or slide viewer) parallel to my camera.

And of course my digital camera forms the last part of it all and I initially set the camera on the “Macro” setting and set this up in a dark room with the only illumination coming from the viewer screen. The reality is that I was taking a very close up shot of a displayed slide. 

The output.

It was mixed. Some images came out so well, while others were lousy. The focusing being the biggest issue and that may have been a problem with camera shake or me misfocusing or in some cases the slide is slightly bowed.  I am still sorting the 1331 images that I photographed, so cannot comment on whether this was a success or not. The biggest problem I had was not being able to see the output on a monitor after I did it and now that I am back in the UK I cannot redo the images as the slides are in South Africa. I do however feel that the theory is sound, and I would have liked to have seen what a cell phone camera does under the same conditions, alas I did not have a way to mount one with me so could not try it out. 

I am not done yet and will reserve my verdict till after I have sorted and culled. But it is worth considering as an option if ever slides need digitising. 

To be continued.

DRW © 2019 – 2020. Created 21/03/2019