Humpback Whale Breach 103

Humpback Whale Breach 103, Frederick Sound, Alaska

I hope that my regular readers aren’t getting bored yet of all my new breaching humpback whale photos.  Though I had spent over 20 weeks the last 4 summers cruising Southeast Alaska with my boat, not until 2 weeks ago did I encounter a whale that yielded so many publishable breaching images.  I could post a unique breach a day for the next month if I wanted to.  What an amazing experience!  Based on my hectic travel schedule, I will still be editing and posting these images well into the fall.

I have high standards for photographing whales, especially since I am friends with some of the top professional marine photographers in the world, like Doug Perrine, Brandon Cole, and Stuart Westmorland.  I prefer to use my Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens to photograph breaching.  This lens gives me the flexibility to zoom in and frame the breach once I see it start to happen, but requires me to be relatively close to my subject.  I used to also use a Canon 1.4X tele-converter, but now prefer the results of using the smaller image sensor on my Canon 7D with its 1.6X crop.  I am a real stickler when it comes to my photography ethics and consider cropping more than 10% of the original image a failure.  At 7fps, I typically capture a number of out of focus, poorly composed images, with a horizon that is consistently skewed down to the right.  Thus, I am particularly pleased when I capture a moment like this, especially at 70mm.

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    Jon: A very spectacular image. Is there any secret to figuring out where they will come up next. Spent a day on a tour boat out of Valdez and encountered a lot of whales. I’d anticipate left and they’d come up right. Get closer to where they were active and get set and they’d come up 200 meters away. Frustrating. You’ve spend years doing this so… luck? Experience? Any tips would be helpful, although the chances of my getting back up to Alaska anytime soon is not high. Thanks for the posting.

    William-The trick, if there is one, for photographing whales is time & patience. You have to put in an incredible amount of effort to be able to be in the right place at the right time. Of course, it certainly helps that I have my own boat so that I can put in that extra time. After that, it comes down to luck. You have to find a whale that is breaching repetitively over & over. When I see 1-2 breaches and then nothing, I do not even try to photograph it. However, when I find a friendly whale that breaches 50+ times in 2 hours like this one, I have more opportunities to get it right. It helps if they keep breaching say on the left side of the boat and going to the right each time. Like I said, I have lots of out-of-focus, poorly composed images, but fortunately the auto-focus helped me capture a few keepers. Good luck getting back up north soon!

    We have porpoises and Orcas in the Puget Sound and they are very hard to photograph! Faster than lightning.. And I have never seen one breach! Just a quick black slip of a tail or a fin, then they’re gone, if you’re lucky enough to see that much!

    I would love to get that perfect shot one day! Well done.

    Chandira-I live in Seattle, so I am familiar with the San Juans. I have only tried a few times to photograph the orcas, but it is just not worth the hassle with all the regulations & harassment of them. I keep saying that I am going to spend a week up there in September when the tourist season calms down, but don’t have the time. However, I am going up to Prince William Sound to use my boat to photograph orcas in 2 weeks. Maybe I’ll have better luck up there? Good luck capturing your own perfect breach!

    Ah, so you know then. Yes, we can’t get too close to them, which is a good thing for them!

    I have done several tours, and never managed anything like a decent photo! 🙂

    Living vicariously through your photos at the moment, as I am recovering from a knee operation and can’t get out and about just yet. I miss my camera!

    Another Seattle summer slipping me by. Ah well.

    Good luck for your next trip!

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