Cologne is the largest city of the Rhineland and offers more than thirty museums and hundreds of art galleries.
We docked in Cologne at a small riverside landing with stone steps up to street level. Since my wife has back problems, and was using a walker, we were a bit apprehensive at first, but the excellent and courteous crew of the SS Antoinette helped her up the steep stairs and carried her walker up to her. This was the most difficult of all our landings for this aging photographer and his wife. Other stops on the itinerary were much easier.
There was a walking tour starting at the pier and strolling through the narrow streets and tiny squares of the Old Town, passing Romanesque churches on the way to the Domplatte (Cathedral Square). The SS Antoinette offers guided fast, medium, and slow walking groups to accommodate the varied stamina of its guests. Instead, we opted to take a taxi to Cathedral Square, easily arranged by the ship’s personnel.
At the square you’ll find the largest Gothic cathedral in Germany, Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral).
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Construction on this magnificent church began in 1248 and was finally completed in 1880. The cathedral remains the tallest Gothic structure in the world and one of the most awe-inspiring. Inside this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will find the earthly remains of the fabled Three Kings—the Magi—lying at rest. You’ll learn about the history of the cathedral and its artwork, especially the pieces surrounding the Shrine of the Magi. Christian pilgrims have been flocking here for centuries. In fact, one of the cathedral’s expansions was intended to accommodate the many faithful who travel from far and wide to experience the wonder of this sacred site.
The day ended with a taxi ride back to the ship, a stop in the ship’s lounge for a few cocktails, and later a welcome reception and gala dinner.
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This itinerary offer some amazing opportunities for stunning images. For on-board shots of the castles and other scenic views along the Rhine, I shot handheld. Even though the boat does not rock, like big ocean cruisers, there is still enough vibration to make using a tripod or monopod impractical, since those vibrations will be transmitted to the camera. I found that an ISO rating of between 800 and 1000, with an aperture of f/8.0 – f/11.0, and shutter speeds of 1/500 or faster, provided steady images with adequate depth of field, with my image-stabilized lens.
For the land excursions, I brought a lightweight carbon fiber monopod, which I used in dimmer venues. For interior or extremely overcast exterior images, I had to boost the ISO to 6400, in some cases (or example, Cathedral interiors), and do some noise reduction post-processing in Lightroom.
You don’t necessarily need an expensive DSLR with a Superzoom attached to capture great images on this trip. My sister-in-law used a small Panasonic all-in-one zoom camera with electronic image stabilization and made some fine images. Great images are more about the skill of the photographer rather than the tools he or she uses. That said, and ideal kit for this trip would include a DSLR with high ISO and rapid continuous shooting capability, with a wide angle to telephoto superzoom (e.g. 18mm – 200mm or 300mm).
My photo gear on this trip included a Nikon D7000 (now replaced by the D7100), a Nikon 18-300 mm stabilized zoom lens, a Nikon ML-3 wireless remote, a Nikon SB-800 flash (now replaced with the SB-910), and an Adorama Flashpoint F-2560 carbon fiber monopod with an Adorama Flashpoint F-2 ball head. All the gear was carried in a light weight Adorama Commander bag, which fit into the airplane overhead storage bin with room to spare. I also used a pair of Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles to ease walking on the land excursions.
Resources – Gear
Later posts will describe more itinerary highlights – Look for them
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