One of my favourite pieces of Union-Castle memorabilia is the famous 5 ships poster that they used to such good effect. It is one of those posters that leaves you asking “how did they do that?
Nowadays everybody would shout “Photoshop” but back when this gem was created it did not exist. Somebody created it from single images of the ships or groupings of them. The giveaways are the wakes and the sun that shines on the Pendennis but not the Windsor. I suspect that the Vaal and Oranje may have been photographed together but I could be wrong. There was also no way that all five ships would be in the same port at the same time, at least two would be in the opposite hemisphere at any given moment. Besides, bringing 5 large ships so closely together at one point is a recipe for disaster.
I have always wanted to reproduce this image using my 1/1250 waterline ships but did not have the SA Vaal to complete the image with. That has now changed and theoretically I have all the ships although my Edinburgh has the original mast configuration as opposed to the configuration that the Oranje has. Before I got all fancy I decided to see what could be done using a simple blue background and gathered the ships and plonked them down more or less where I felt they should go. The result was not great so I reshuffled them again, bringing them closer together. The big problem was that of depth of field, if I photographed too close the camera focused on the Windsor leaving the Vaal and Oranje out of focus. I had printed out the image and then tried to position the ships according to how they were on the page.
The problem with that was that the paper was now in the way! it did however tell me that I really needed to space them closer together and get much lower at the same time. I removed the paper and tried again.
That’s better, although I am still sitting with the focusing issue and I need to get much lower too. The next stage is to reprint the image onto A3 and then try placing the ships on the larger page and do this on a table where I can get much lower down. I was using the floor this time around so my next attempt will hopefully be better. I am also going to try my cellphone camera instead of my stills camera. It may just deal with the focusing better than the stills does. I am not 100% finished with this yet, but am glad that I am able to make a start at getting the image reproduced.
The original is amazing though, when I saw it all those years ago I was dumbstruck but it took many years to get a copy of that iconic poster. The RMS St Helena used to have a large copy of it in the one stair tower and each time I went below deck I used to ask myself “How did they do that?”
I have been thinking about this project a lot over the past few days and tried a few other things today. Here are a few of them:
I think this one got the ships right but the background was wrong. I need to move away from a corner and go for a straight line horizon like the image above.
I also tried a different mode on my camera which seemed to help with the depth of field issues. I also tried the cellphone and I do not like what came out; the camera gave overall better results. I also tried a different “sea” as you can see… I liked how this one came out but the background was iffy. I messed with clone brushing and this one was really close to what I am trying to achieve. Now all I need is consistent light, a reprinted “sea” and more patience.
DRW © 2021. Created 12/09/2021