Boat Spotting Tips

How to make good boat pictures and where to find the boats

Of course you’ll like to make pictures of the beautiful boats every time you see them. Some tips may help you making better pictures. Of course generally speaking you’ll get the best pictures when the weather is clear and sunny. Try to find a position there the sun is somewhere behind you. The most beautiful pictures are the ones taken from a bluff or if you place your camera very close to water level. Usually you’ll get the best pictures when the boat is on its way along the river and not moured at the banks or landing. Look for the schedules and if you have a good tele lense wait on the opposite side of the river until the boat is leaving.

That’s rather easy with excursion boats that offer short trips always at the same place and times. Spotting the cruise boats like the Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen and American Queen is much more difficult. They sometimes change their schedule due to high water or other reasons. And even if they are on time the time when they pass a specific place could vary by hours depending on river traffic, water level and many other factors.

What you have to do is first look for a good place to take pictures where you can wait in the car or outside where you have a good view far up or down the river so you can see the boat coming early enough. To find a place like this, drive along the roads along the rivers. Usually this are very small roads, sometimes even gravel roads. You’ll need good and new maps to be sure you won’t get lost. Take your time, enjoy the landscape and find the best place to take the pictures. Probably you’ll find two or three good places so you can make your pictures drive to the next location and take some more pictures. Be sure the places are far enough away from each others that you have enough time to drive from on location to the other without hurry and be there before the boat arrives.

When you’ve found you spotting place, calculate the time when the boat will pass by. Depending on current and other factors, the DQSC boats usually make about 5-6 mph upstream and maybe 7-8 mph downstream. To find a starting point for your calculations you can call the Lock & Dam and ask when the boat passed through the lock. And give a call to the Chamber of Commerce at the next regular stop and ask whether they have any up to date information about schedule changes or late arrival. Don’t rely on the official arrival time, as the boats sometimes arrive up to some hours earlier than scheduled. Have a look at the river charts to meassure the distance from the lock to the place you are waiting.

Check the webcams available and have a look at the message board for actual messages about the boat’s locations. And of course the most valuable information comes from the boat itself: Drop by the day before at a regular stop and ask there when they expect to be at a specific place and what speed they will make on this specific part of the river. Then be at the chosen place about an hour before you expect the boat to appear. Being there, first ask some fishermen or neighbors whether they have seen the boat passing already – just to be sure you won’t wait for hours and the boat already passed by earlier than expected.

The best places to get a hold on the river cruise ships like the American Queen of course are the regular stops and the Locks & Dams. But both places usually are not really good places to take pictures. Many times the boats arrive or leave at their regular stops early in the morning or in the evening after sunset. Where they leave by daylight, in most times you’ll have to find a good place on the other side of the river to get a good picture. Making picture at a Lock & Dam is almost impossible as the Lock itself will block good sight to the boat. So, regular stops and Lock & Dams are great places to get close to the boats, but in many cases they are not perfect places to take pictures.