OP – The Blog

July 1st, 2012

Arctic Giant

Posted By Kevin Schafer

Blue whale rising, Arctic Norway

Six hundred miles from the North Pole, the sea was a windless calm. Spouts rose in the still air in almost every direction. One was from a Blue Whale, largest creature on earth, once nearly extinct in this part of the arctic, but now returning every summer to feed along the edge of the continental shelf.
The whale had a predictable pattern: breathing deeply and then diving again for 3-4 minutes,scooping krill out of the deep water. Every time he dove, we had to guess where he would come up next, sometime in front of us, sometimes behind. But none of us were expecting it to rise up directly next to the ship – first as just a hint of pale blue rising from the black deep, but growing brighter and brighter as it approached the surface.

I was lucky enough to see the change in water color, shout out to others to get their cameras ready,  and get in position myself to capture this picture just as the whale broke the surface, its mouth still open from its last meal.

Nikon D3 with 300mm f2.8 lens : ISO 500, 1/800 sec
Yesterday, Svalbard, Norway


Please leave a comment

  1. Michael Frye Says:

    Simple and really beautiful image Kevin.

  2. Kevin Schafer Says:

    Thanks Michael – but all credit goes to the whale…

  3. Ian Plant Says:

    “Seething with jealousy” is a phrase that frequently comes to my mind when I see your images. Sweet.

  4. AnnieJo Says:

    An absolutely amazing image. It evokes the breathless anticipation of watching for the whale to surface and the sense of wonder that seeing whales brings. For those of us who can’t go see whales in person, capture such photos, this is as good as it gets. BTW, what aperture did you use?

  5. Kevin Schafer Says:

    Hi AnnieJo – Thanks for your comments. Yes, it was an amazing moment to see it emerge from the deep. I think I shot it at f5.6: wanted to keep my shutter speed high since I was hand-holding a 300mm lens.

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