We arrive at West End, Tortola, BVI

Loading the Native Sons ferry at Red Hook, US Virgin Islands

Loading the Native Sons ferry at Red Hook, US Virgin Islands

Like many Islands the US Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands rely on ferries and the locals seemed to be running to get them before the last ferry would leave for their destination. We found the ferry schedule a little confusing at first but once you know what terminal you’re at it makes sense. Preplanning helps, I didn’t even know where our B&B was located; not a big issue but this might catch the casual tourist off guard. Our Native Sons ferry out of Red Hook, Saint Thomas was pleasant, third worldly enough to make us realize that we were in a different country. The ferries certainly seem safe enough, just a little dated, my type of ride. While no chickens or cows joined us on our journey there was a large selection of food and other items being brought into BVI. A refrigerator sat on the dock waiting for a later trip.

A quick and very scenic thirty minute trip had us arriving at HM Custom Dock in West End, Tortola, BVI. The West End is a stunning harbor with oceanfront villas hanging over the bay. The amount of boats is mind boggling, most of them large catamarans and mono haul sailboats.

Heading through customs is a very casual affair although one must remember to bring your passport; this is another country. You are entering a small part of the United Kingdom, perhaps the only part of the UK to use US currency.

Soper’s Hole, West End, Tortola

The West End is known locally as Soper’s Hole, a great hideout for pirates and buccaneers in days gone by. It still is a relaxing place to hang out and provision for the upcoming trip. We spent the afternoon on the boat being quite lazy as well as heading to shore to check out the marina and have a bite at Pusser’s Landing Bar & Restaurant.

My first chance to do any serious photography came about as we wandered the docks. The timing certainly wasn’t perfect for the “mood” photos I like to take but the dark blue sky and clean white boats certainly made for “calendar” type photographs. Looking back through the photos I realized that all my shooting had been done within about 40 minutes. This is certainly the more journalistic approach at work. If I had been using a tripod I likely would have only shot about 5 photos and driven Cherie and Terry crazy!

We returned to the boat for to enjoy what turned into a very pretty sunset, not one of those outrageously stunning ones but still very photogenic. This was the first time I have shot a sunset with the Nikon D800 and the amount of detail really blew my mind. Using matrix metering I was able to use only a -0.3 exposure compensation with virtually the only blowout right near the ball of the sun. Shadow detail went all the way into the darkest areas of the backlit scenes.

Sunset at Soper's Hole, West End, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Sunset at Soper's Hole, West End, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

I think when I get back home and look at the images on my large work computer I’ll be blown away. You could tell by looking at the histogram just how much detail was contained, amazing. I can’t wait to open up the images in my RAW converter, Nikon NX2 and play with the levels a little.  (note: the image shown here has been worked on – more details will follow)

I also shot some images at dusk using the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 lens. This is the VRII model that supposedly gives you up to 4 stops of image stabilization. I have heard mixed reviews about using the stabilization on active rather than normal but decided to give it a try. This active mode served me well last summer when I was shooting from our boat and from aircraft but I hadn’t really tried to use it in low light situations before and our boat in this case was tied up at a mooring ball, not under sail.

The results were a little hit and miss. Most of the images I shot at around 1/100 second were sharp enough and I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to send them out for publication but by the time I was shooting at 1/15 second my success rate was down to about 10%. Still, out of the 10 photographs I shot at 1/15 second, one of them is sharp enough that I can use them if needed, perhaps not for a poster but it would hold up to a double page spread in a magazine. I certainly have no complaints about that, especially with the “no cost” factor of shooting lots of digital images. Photographs like these would have been totally unheard of even 10 years ago.

Very slow shutter speeds at Soper's Hole Wharf & Marina, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Very slow shutter speeds at Soper's Hole Wharf & Marina, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

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