Friday, July 24, 2009

Tall Story

Taking The Wind Out Of My Sails

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


These shots were taken exactly a week ago, at lunchtime last Friday. I’ve been wanting to do something different for this theme for a while and I realised that if I took a long walk past the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, I would be able to get some unusual sky shots with the rigging of a genuine sailing vessel.

The Polly Woodside is a great Melbourne landmark. She was a 19th-century vessel built in Belfast, Ireland by the shipbuilders Workman Clark & Co Ltd. The story behind her name is interesting, because the Irish owner, William Woodside, named her after his wife. But here’s an interesting twist. His wife’s name was Marian, although her nickname was Polly, hence the vessel’s name.


In the early Seventies, she was restored to be a museum ship for The National Trust. As I approached her from a distance, I was struck by the thought that I’d never photographed an actual sailing ship before. Modern vessels, yes. Yachts, yes. Ocean liners, yes. But sailing ships that actually operate under wind power? Make that a big no.

However, these shots proved slightly more challenging that I first thought. I had forgotten – or perhaps I just did not know – that the vessel was actually in dry dock. For starters, this meant that you couldn’t just rock up, walk around and take a number and walk aboard. I was restricted to shooting outside the barriers, of course, so I had to be creative with the way I interpreted the sight through my lens.

The winter sky was mainly grey, but there were some strong patches of sunshine, which made for very interesting light conditions. These shots were taken from the beautiful prow, looking back over the main mast.


I guess in retrospect it’s an interesting view because the sails were not actually hoisted – which in turn means that the rigging is the central focus. There was no shortage of perspective, because the main mast is estimated to be as tall as a 10-storey building.

This final shot was taken from near the stern of the sailing ship. I had the camera slung over my shoulder when I saw the single gull flying towards me. Raising the camera as quickly as I could and without any time to check the settings, I just hit the trigger as quickly as I could.

As you can see, I just about managed to get the gull in the frame and I actually think the low, long silhouette of the building on the left adds an interesting counterpoint to the graceful geometry of the Polly Woodside.


For other participants in Dot’s concept, go to Sky Watch HQ.

46 comments:

Gaston Studio said...

Boy, did that rigging catch my eye on my blog roll; beautiful photos David!

I'm from Savannah GA and when I was director of the Savannah Waterfront Assn, we had a tall ship set up permanently on River Street. Got to know the captain, etc. very well and it was fantastic having such a fine, restored barquetine within full sight every day... and a great precursor to the USA Centennial celebration when tall ships came from all over the world! Wow, those were the days; thanks for the wonderful reminder.

Jane

Mojo said...

Absolutely fabulous collection David! I'm heading to the coast for a long weekend tomorrow... might have to see if there's a schooner about. There'll be boats aplenty to be sure, even if they're not as grand as Ms. Polly here.

Really exceptional!

Moannie said...

Loved the pictures, got my old romantic imagination racing. Clippers and pirates and buxom wenches, peglegged sailors and buried treasure.

erin said...

gotta to say i love that last capture...the clouds look so powerful and the rigging against it...perfect.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

~David, I love old ships, and the Trincomalee at Hartlepool is a real climb-aboard treasure, if you're ever down our way, as opposed to down under...

I have a little treat for you today over at mine - To recognise your passion and your great standing in oru international blogging community - I know you might not 'do' awards, and I really don't mind... but I'd love you to see it...

Blessings, mate! Fhi x

Hilary said...

What a great collection of photos. I love that last one.

Charles Gramlich said...

the pics of the masts really goes to illustrate the beauty of that older technology.

Susan said...

Sailing ships are so intriguing - thanks for the beauty.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Gosh, she's a beauty, and those photos do her great justice. Super!

Sheila :-)

richies said...

Tall ships are visually very interesting whether the sails are hoisted or not. Great photos.

An Arkies Musings

Tracey said...

Absolutly stunning.. The tall ships come to my home town sometime this year, i can't wait to get out there and see them in the flesh..

There's something about sailing vessels i adore but for some reason i find them emotional and start to cry! think its my age hehe

Louise said...

The "interesting light conditions" make for wonderful photos. The second one is my favorite. Stunning..

RuneE said...

Taking pictures of sailing vessels is not easy - but you gave done well!

Lee said...

Those are wonderful photos, David! My parents had a sail boat for several years and it was fun to go out on it. The one you photographed reminds me of the image of a similar vessel that our Coastguard ensigns are trained on. I understand they even have to climb the rigging.

Cheers!

James said...

Wonderful pictures David. They remind me of my trip to Baltimore.

Eddie Bluelights said...

Great post David - really enjoyed that - ships like this are so graceful. I'll be doing a post myself soon on the SS Great Britain in Bristol.
I think I was born in the wrong age!! ~ Eddie

PS Oh! and I like a schooner of sherry as well!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Great job! The clouds really top off the photos!

Pastor Sharon said...

David,
Those shots are beautiful. It brings to light just how amazing the architecture and design for hoisting sails are.
Without experience, seeing all those lines, it would appear almost impossible to launch this without getting lines crossed and tangled.
This is a true work of art, including the way you photographed it.

Cynthia L. H. said...

Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing!
;^)

Greyscale Territory said...

Sailing ships have a speciial mystique laced with high seas and long adventures! I think the detail of the rigging adds to the wonder of imagining the sails in full bloom cresting the waves of high seas! Beautiful photos!

Maggie May said...

That was brilliant David. We have several old ships & reproductions in our dock!
Think if you could have climbed the rigging and taken the photo from the top you would get a very different shot.

willow said...

She's a beauty, David. I can't imagine crossing the Atlantic or Pacific in one of those babies, can you?

Vita Stunder said...

Fabulous collection David!!!

I love these shots!
Have a great weekend :)

Anna

Elisabeth's bright side said...

I just loved these pictures!

bowledover said...

To think Patrick O'Brian wrote about these ships. They certainly command respect and awe.
Lovely captures.

Julie said...

I remember seeing the PW as a rusting hulk in Marybyrnong back in the early 70s before restoration. She surely is looking wonderful now, David.

Joanna Jenkins said...

The ship pictures reminded of the Russell Crowe movie "Master and Commander" based on the Patrick OBrian series of books. Beautiful!

Photo Cache said...

Oh what can I say, but wow, I love the second photo.

Merisi said...

Simply fantastic images!

I love tall ships. I had the good luck of visiting a replica of Captain Cook's Endeavour twice, in Brunswick, Georgia, and in Alexandria, Virginia. Hard to fathom what it meant to travel around the world with it.

J Bar said...

Wonderful ship and a great skywatch too.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Grace and Bradley said...

What a marvelous ship! It is hard to imaging how would it be like to be sailing on it in the ocean some 100 years ago. Thanks for sharing and have a nice weekend.

Baruch said...

Great title, photos and info!

LV said...

Really good post. Nice to see such scene from your world. I had the honor of visiting there once, and just loved it.

Sylvia K said...

Fascinating, David, and your photos are fabulous! No surprise, but you never fail to amaze me with your posts!
Have a great weekend!
Sylvia

Anne said...

So great David!! and the first picture reminded almost reminded me og a spaider net :-)

Happy weekend to you from Anne.

Kathleen said...

She's a beauty! As are your photos. Thank you for the perspective tutorial as well. I've been finding I'm cropping so closely I'm losing perspective. But I keep practicing, happily!

Sarah Lulu said...

I feel I could sail away....

Carolyn said...

These are great shots but the one looking up at the rigging and clouds acting as the sails is beautiful. Nice post and informative. Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend.
Smiles

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Lovely photos

Lew said...

You got some fantastic vertical shots without setting foot onbard!

spacedlaw said...

How not dream about travel with such masts and rigging that tease the clouds?

Hilda said...

She's gorgeous! And so are your photos of her. Happy SWF!

♥Itajeff♥ @Something To Share said...

Great pictures & beautiful skies.
Happy skywatching!

♥Ita
p.s. Pls stop by at Something To Share anytime, I just love company.

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

Such grace and beauty in the sailing vessel. The 2nd shot is so dramatic!

Willow said...

I love the tall ships. We see them every year here along the Pacific coast. I haven't tried to photograph them; you've inspired me.

Arija said...

I must have been a sailor in another life....I just adore sailing ships and these are beutiful photos.