Whale Tales Part 1

Two orcas surfacing in the Johnstone Strait

I’m home now after nearly 12000 km and four weeks and many hundreds of gigabites of unedited material. John Marriott’s Orca and Marine Mammal tour aboard the Ocean Light II was a success from many standpoints. I met some very nice folks, had great accommodations and food while on board and enjoyed a variety of excellent photo opportunities, thanks to a knowledgeable skipper and crew (Chris and Jenn) and tour guide (John).

Whale photography is challenging. The subjects spend most of their time underwater and don’t always surface in predictable patterns. I also had framing and focusing issues caused by the boat movements in ocean swells and that meant there were lots of throw-away pictures. John mentioned that successful whale photos require four elements: light, subject, behaviour and lack of wind-calm seas. Fortunately we had all four elements much of the time. Sadly, no breaching Orcas, but there was sufficient interesting behaviour, great backlight, calm seas and lots of marine mammals to keep the motor drives smoking. When things were quiet we downloaded and edited. I had to keep ahead of my laptop’s 350 GB reserve. Two 2 TB Hds had sufficient space for everything but I like to have the Raw files in three places to start.

The skipper is required to stay outside a minimum distance from the whales, so I found I used my 600 mm regularly, mounted on a Wimberley head. Other participants had crop sensor cameras with 100-400 or 500 mm lenses so they got about the same magnifications. It was OK if the whales swam within the 100 m minimum and sometimes that occurred. For the pictures posted below, we followed a pod of orcas as they casually made their way down Johnstone Strait, perhaps loafing, sometimes hunting, There was a rhythm to the process and we learned to predict where and when the whales would surface. The backlit waters and plumes from their ‘blows’ created contrast which was visually exciting. The big bull would announce his imminent presence by showing the tip of his dorsal fin as he rose for air. In addition to orcas we had some exciting encounters with humpback whales.

Two orcas surfacing in the Johnstone Strait

Humpback whale diving in Blackfish Sound

Next. Bait balls and lunge feeding.

About Dawns _Images
I (Don Johnston) am a wildlife and landscape photographer based in Lively, Northern Ontario. My work is represented by All Canada Photos (Victoria), agefotostock (Spain), Interphoto (Germany), PhotoEdit (USA) and Alamy (England). I am widely published in books, magazines, calendars as well as advertising media and decor. My personal stock photography website www.donjonstonphotos.com has over 10 000 images in galleries plus a search feature. Like many other nature photographers I am self-taught beginning with film in the 1980s and continuing through the 21st century with digital. I taught high school biology for thirty years, retiring in 2003 to pursue photography full time.

One Response to Whale Tales Part 1

  1. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed now.

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