A Solo Lady Takes a Cruise: Her Photos

Words and photography by Dalene Heck
She packed her bags carefully this time, not in the usual haphazard stuffing of items into every corner. She wrapped cords in perfect coils and tried to remember every instruction that accompanied them. This is for the camera, this is for the tablet, this is for the GoPro. She’s used to having a doting husband who manages her messy electronics so that they don’t end in a tangled mess.

But this time, she was traveling alone.

She arrived in Rhode Island safely and with all items intact. She didn’t leave her phone on the plane (she’s done that before) or her tablet (yeah, that’s happened too). She checked and double checked to ensure everything was tucked away where it should be.

The lady left the plane and boarded a small cruise ship, her home for the next 16 days, and unpacked just as carefully. The space would naturally turn into a mess throughout the trip, but she kept most mindful of where the vitals were. She charged batteries nightly, backed up her photos not quite nightly, but more frequently than she ever would have.

She was nervous.

She was nervous for embarking on the longest solo trip she’d ever taken. For being lonely. For losing something. And most certainly, for not being able to keep up to a standard of photography set by her talented husband.

Yet she would soon discover that she had nothing to be nervous for. The remarkable itinerary for this trip would offer the opportunity for her to take some of the most beautiful photos she ever snapped.

She was nervous for the longest solo trip she’s ever taken. For being lonely. For losing something. And most certainly, for not being able to keep up to a standard of photography set by her talented husband.
Sunset

Sunset on the Atlantic Coastline.

Erie Canal

Lock 11 on the Erie Canal.

Canal Cruising

Somewhere along the Erie Canal.

Behind this solo lady photographer were two men to support her. One, the onboard photographer to help chase down good spots for sunset and encourage her newfound enthusiasm. The other, her patient husband who edited her photos for Instagram and this blog post.

Oh, and to answer desperate texts as speedily as possible.

I’m on the pier and want to get softer water, what setting do I use?

Balance your exposure, use a small aperture.

Did that, still not working.

Then lower your shutter speed.

Oh screw it, she said, packing up her gear. She could hear her husband’s laughter on the other end of a text, mocking her familiar impatience, which infuriated her even more. She stayed to try again, but with no notable result. In guileless defeat, she blamed the old wobbly tripod (who was only wobbly, she discovered later, because she had failed to tighten an integral dial. But her husband would not know that).

She could hear her husband’s laughter on the other end of a text, mocking her familiar impatience, which infuriated her even more.
Lighthouse Sunset

Oswego, New York.

Rock Jump Sunset

Buffalo, NY

Maid of the Mist Niagra

Maid of the Mist, Niagra Falls, Canada

Niagra Falls

Niagra Falls, US side.

Cleveland OH

Cruising into Cleveland.

Cleveland Reflection

Reflections of Cleveland.

Mackinac Island

A cloudy start to Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island sunrise.

Mackinac Island sunrise.

Bridge to the UP

Under the bridge connecting the lower and upper peninsula, Michigan.

Chicago Skyline

Our final stop: Chicago.

Chicago Bean

The Bean! In Chicago.

On the last day in Chicago she was stopped by a man just a few meters away from the ship, curious about where it had come from. This was not an unusual question – the crew often fielded such queries any time the ship was docked.

She explained the route, from Rhode Island to New York, up the Hudson River and into the Erie Canal. From the Erie Canal to the Oswego Canal, north to Lake Ontario. Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan.

It was then that she felt an odd sense of accomplishment. Which was ludicrous, really. She did nothing but sit on a ship for 16 days; she expended no effort in getting everyone from start to end. In fact, she was instead pampered by the gracious crew. But it was the kind of journey that no matter how you did id, it felt like a feat. An accomplishment that comes from completing a not-so-normal route that so very few do in modern times.

Oh, and she didn’t lose any equipment or break anything and only cried once for missing her husband. She also didn’t tank the Instagram account as she kinda expected to.

It was then that she felt an odd sense of accomplishment. Which was ludicrous, really.
Butterfly

From the butterfly preserve on Mackinac Island.

She will be happy to relinquish the duty of photographer, to not have to worry about backing up and sorting and ISO and changing batteries nightly and always carrying a cleaning cloth. She’ll switch her camera back to AV mode and live out her days not worrying so much about her own photos, knowing that her husband has got that covered.

The lady may not have tanked this blog’s Instagram account, but a photographer, she is not.

And she is quite okay with that.

how to do it

Blount Small Ship Adventures tagline is to “go where the big ships cannot”, and that is the exact truth. The ship used for this excursion, the Grande Caribe, was built exactly so that it could traverse the Erie Canal. The pilot house detracts so that the shortest bridge is cleared by just 6 inches. They are the only company who provides this itinerary, and with the small intimate setting (only 82 passengers maximum!), it’s like traveling on a friend’s yacht. The Captain was cautious and considerate, the crew were all fantastically attentive and friendly. And the itinerary simply cannot be beat.

This post was produced by us, brought to you by Blount Small Ship Adventures.

23 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Victoria | Girl Tries Life
    July 18 2016

    You SAY you’re not a photographer, but you took some incredible photos! Love the building reflected in the glass and the person running into the sea. Traveling alone is a huge accomplishment. Something that I hope to get in in the near future. But, yes, as someone who also relegates photo taking and tech to her husband, I totally get it!

    • July 18 2016

      Thanks Victoria! If you take enough of them, the hope is some will turn out (I took A LOT). It was a fun challenge, both in the travel and photography. 🙂

  • July 18 2016

    Glad to see that a few Cleveland shots made the cut of your best photos! 😉

    Sounds like such a unique cruise – I would love to explore the Great Lakes that way!
    Amanda recently posted..72 Hours in Cape Town, South Africa

    • July 18 2016

      Thanks for taking me for a spin around Cleveland! I think my absolute favourite is the one with the reflected building – where you and I both looked up and went UHHH, there’s a nice view. 🙂

  • July 18 2016

    This looks like such a fun trip! And you definitely have nothing to worry about with the photos, you captured the experience brilliantly 🙂 I also cede photo responsibilities to my other half, so I know where you’re coming from and also that sometimes, we do ok on our own!
    Brian recently posted..Exploring The Huntington Library | California

    • July 18 2016

      It was indeed a fun trip. And thank you!

  • Wynne
    July 18 2016

    The photos are wonderful! I love the Lock 11 one best. And the cruise itself sounds terrific. Between you and Sherry, Blount is now definitely on my radar.

    Glad you made it through – now you know you can!

    • July 18 2016

      Thank you Wynne! That shot is one of my faves too – and wouldn’t have happened without the onboard photographer who reminded me how to get those sun flares. I really thought that was a neat feature to the trip – to have someone to help with that!

  • July 18 2016

    Wow, I’m terribly impressed, Dalene! By the feat of you taking this trip independently, the emotions articulated so perfectly in your words, and also the superb photos you took! What an amazing experience to look back on!
    Kristine Li recently posted..Oh Deer! A Day Trip to Nara, Japan

  • July 18 2016

    She did a great job! She should take the camera away from him more often! 🙂
    Cam recently posted..25 Photos that will make you want to visit Dublin, Ireland

    • July 18 2016

      SHHHH! She won’t tell him that. 🙂

  • July 18 2016

    It’s funny: over the years, Kevin and I have definitely taken on various “roles” when we travel. We always say that I’m in charge of “planning” while he’s in charge of “execution.” I figure out where we’re going and how to get there and what we’ll do when we’re there, while he’s responsible for actual navigation on the street, currency exchange (I can’t do math), dealing with our technology,etc.

    This division of labor works well when we’re traveling together, but it also causes anxiety for when we’re forced to travel alone. The upside though is that when I’ve had to get from point A to point B on my own, I’ve succeeded and it’s built my overall confidence greatly.

    I think, as terrifying as it may be, forcing yourself out of that comfortable role every so often is crucial for building and keeping your confidence.

    Looks like you had a great trip and I love the photos! Nice work!
    Laura recently posted..Bittersweet

    • July 18 2016

      I absolutely agree with you Laura, and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to take this trip solo – to give myself that opportunity. We’ll surely do it again (maybe just not such long trip apart though). 🙂

  • Anne-Marie
    July 18 2016

    You are very talented, I loved the pictures, in particular the one of the vessel battling Niagra falls.

    • July 18 2016

      Thanks Anne-Marie – that was such great fun at Niagra!

  • July 18 2016

    Dalene, you may not be a photographer but damn, you did such a great job of it! You can hold your own girl 🙂
    Katie recently posted..Why you need to visit Bagan, NOW!

  • Jackie Purkess
    July 19 2016

    I think you are an awesome photographer, those pics are amazing!!!!!

  • I had no idea there was such a cruise itinerary…I was quite confused when I recognized Chicago in your pics! Sounds fantastic and you’ve definitely sold yourself short on the photography front…great job!
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..Exploring Southern Illinois

  • Dalene, your photography is excellent!
    Brooklyn @ justbeingbrooklyn recently posted..The Storm Crow Alehouse

  • February 22 2017

    For someone who says they can’t take good photos, I have to say those are some pretty amazing shots. I could definitely learn a thing or two from you!

    Goes to show that what it takes is the will to make something beautiful, rather than the technical knowhow (although having that certainly will help!).

    Thanks for the great story 🙂
    Joaquim Miro recently posted..Why You Should Consider Living in Lisbon

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