The primary purpose of our excursion in Stockholm that had already seen us tour the City Hall was to visit the Vasa Museum, dedicated to the Vasa, a 17th century warship that sank on its maiden voyage with the loss of around thirty lives. My wife and I are keen on seeing historical ships when we travel, probably as a result of both being born in and living in Portsmouth, home of several of its own (Victory, Warrior, and Mary Rose).

The museum itself was built in 1988 following the drying and treating of the raised vessel over the previous twenty seven years.

Inside the museum the impressive ship can be seen in all its glory on four levels of walkways around the vessel. What is incredible is just how intact the Vasa is. With the exception of the masts the main decomposition that took place on the ship underwater was the rusting away of smaller metal pieces such as bolts for the timbers. The timber itself didn’t suffer anywhere near as much damage as the water in which the ship sank could not support the microscopic life that would otherwise have thrived on it.

The highly-decorated aft of the vessel and bowsprit were particularly nice to see and brought to mind any of the main ships in the Pirates of the Caribbean series of movies.

On each of the levels away from the Vasa were recovered items from the ship along with information about it. The ship had been over-designed on the wishes of the king, Gustavus Adolphus. Intended to be the flagship of a squadron of ship based in the Swedish Archipelago the ship was fitted with 64 guns but was dangerously top heavy. With nobody apparently willing to tell the king that the design was not a smart one the ship set sail before a watching crowd only to catch a light breeze and tip over enough to allow water to flood in through its lower gun ports beyond the ship’s capacity to compensate.

Taking photographs in the Vasa Museum is not the easiest thing in the world. There’s nothing stopping you from taking photos of the ship – as you can tell – but there’s a challenge because of the lighting. I’m never particularly happy taking photos at high ISO because of the noise this generates but there’s no other option in this case. High ISO and wide open lens allowed me to get shots at a high enough speed to not be too blurred from hand held pictures but some of the images are as slow as 1/6th of a second which is worryingly long; that’s even with deliberate underexposing to try to get a little more speed in the shutter. That long exposure coupled with the high ISO and the lighting in the museum then gave everything a very warm feel so in post processing I’ve sharpened a bit and kept noise reduction low because I prefer the noise and sharpness to something too soft. To counter the colour I reduced the temperature by a couple of hundred kelvins universally and dropped overall saturation by about 10%. On top of that I also pulled the orange down by anywhere from 5-20% more depending on how far away from natural daylight the picture was taken. Yellows were reduced by about 5% when lights were present in the pictures and highlights were reduced on a picture-by-picture basis.

Regardless of the difficulties with getting decent photos the Vasa Museum was still a great place to visit. If you like history or Disney movies about pirates then it’s a fabulous thing to see on a day in Stockholm. For more information about the museum as well as its opening times and ticket prices take a look at the official website: Vasa Museum.


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