This past Friday, while I was still in Moscow, I saw friends posting images of the riverboat, American Queen, and thought missed opportunity again. Usually it is because I have to work weekends, but this time I was actually off, just half a world away. Then Sunday morning I saw a post on Facebook that placed the riverboat at the locks in Guntersville, AL. I decided to head down to Ditto Landing at the south end of Huntsville, AL, on the banks of the Tennessee River. With the sun position and the curve in the river I thought it would be a wonderful location. I missed the turn off to Ditto Landing and as I crossed the bridge, I saw the American Queen about a 100ft from the bridge, too late for photos from that spot.
Google Maps Shooting Location
So after some thinking I decided to head up to the Greenbrier exit on Hwy565. If you head south from the exit, you are on Swanscott Rd. Turn right onto County Road 129 and follow that out to the river. Just before the river you will leave pavement and enter Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. Took me a while to find a spot I was happy with. After waiting an hour and a half, she finally came into view.
American Queen First Sighting Canon 5d MKII Canon 600mm f/4L IS
She is a large ship with six decks and two wonderful ornate smoke stacks. The smoke out of both stacks is not consistent, so I was very happy to get a few shots with smoke rising from both.
American Queen Full Side View Canon 5D MKII Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS
When you include the smoke stacks this is a very tall ship. In order to pass under bridges, the American Queen is able to lower her smoke stacks. I was fortunate to miss her at Ditto Landing, since she had both stacks down to pass under the Hwy431 bridge. In the following picture you can see that the stack furthest away from is almost all the way down as she prepares to pass under Hwy I65 and head into Decatur, AL.
American Queen Lowering Smoke Stack Canon 5D MKII Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS
It was a thrill to watch her steam by, she was originally launched in 1995 and can carry 432 guests, with a crew of up to 160. She is 418 feet long and 89 feet wide, considered to be the largest riverboat ever built. The paddle wheel is powered by a real steam engine and maneuverability is augmented by a set of diesel-electric “Z-drive” propellers, these are used when the paddle wheel is unable to handle tight situations. The paddle wheel has two wheels working in unison to steer the boat.
American Queen Paddle Wheel Canon 5D MKII Canon 600mm f/4L IS
I am so thankful that today was as sunny as it was, making it a perfect day to shoot the American Queen riverboat. I think it would be a blast to actually take a cruise on a ship like this. Hopefully she will make many more trips along the Tennessee River, and I am very happy that I returned in time for the experience of seeing her. I hope you have enjoyed this entry, all comments are encouraged. Thanks for reading, Jens Lambert
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