Monday, June 24, 2013

Photographing Whales

On June 2nd, my wife and I were finally able to go on the whale watching trip we have been wanting to do for years. We booked with Island Adventures out of Anacortes and our day started out and would stay warm and sunny. Though we were very glad to have dressed in a couple extra layers as it wasn't super warm once we were underway with the wind chill on the water.

Before our departure, I set up the camera prepared for fast moving animals. Shutter priority ( at 1/640, or higher on some occasions), continuous release and continuous focus servo. Even with the camera set on burst, it took me a while before I actually started utilizing the feature - not being used to using it I would out of habit let off of the shutter release after the first frame.

Being ready at the right moment and trying to predict when the animals would surface was a bit harder than I thought, and resulted in many dorsal fin shots. A definite photographic learning experience, and one I would highly recommend to anyone (especially those who love nature photography). Even with VR and the relatively light combination of my D5100 & 55-300mm lens, framing and keeping the camera steady posed a challenge from a moving boat. It was much easier when the captain shut the engines down so we can drift and watch the whales in the calm seas.

Besides the whales we saw many sea birds (both swimming and in flight), including a couple bald eagles, and some fleeting glimpses of some harbor porpoises. The harbor porpoise as the most challenging and camera shy animal we would see all day. They are very fast and by the time you spot one they may only surface once or twice more before they are out of view.

Humpback Whale Tail
The Humpback's Tail

Orca Calf Tail Slap
Orca calf doing a tail slap

Kissing Orcas
"Kissing" Orcas

Cormorant Taking Flight
Cormorant Taking Flight

We would really love to go whale watching again, and next time (if I have one) I will be sporting a monopod and paying closer attention to the photographer that works with the tour company as he knows more what to expect and came out with some fantastic photos.



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