Steal Nothing But Photographs
2Jul/160

There be Whales Here! (Juneau, AK):

"Captain, There be whales here"!  Maybe it's the nerd in me but every time I see reference to a hump-back whale I think of Mr. Scott declaring that two  whales were beamed aboard the Enterprise in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  The plot where Mr. Spock and the rest of the team race back in time to capture some whales to keep an alien probe from destroying earth.  If that doesn't make you think that these amazing creatures are important, then just go on a Whale Watching Excursion with Juneau Alaska outfitters "Gastineau Guiding".  After an awesome rainforest hike with biologist/naturalist "Van" who had some serious Alaska wilderness Kung Fu, we boarded a custom build whale watching boat with our guide Lindsey and Captain Scott (Ironic, I know) who got us in the thick of things with Whales, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and more Whales.  Here are the images I captured on the excursion.  Don't forget to click on the images to see them full size on your monitor!

The hike began in the wilderness where we go up close and personal with Alaska's rainforest.

Alaskan Rainforest (D3S, ISO800, f/6.3, 1/100th seconds, 14mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

We saw some awesome Flora/Fauna and learned all about its uses by the First Nations people of Alaska from Van:

Juneau Flora/Fauna (D3s, ISO1600, f/2.8, 1/500th second @ 14mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

The beach-combing with Van and Lindsey allowed us to enjoy the Juneau shore:

Juneau Shore Pano (D3s, ISO1600, f/2.8, 1/8000th second @24mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

Then after a short bus ride to a loading ramp we boarded the boat to find some whales.  Lindsey was amazingly knowledgeable about anything living in the waters around Juneau and made the ride interesting while Scott did some whale recon on the radio to the other boats to find some whale action.

We found these lazy sea-lions on the way out, where we learned the difference between sea-lions and seals.  The eagle was a nice touch hired by Gastineau  Guiding to make the scene more "Majestic" :).

Bed and Buoy (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/800th second @ 320mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Then we got to see what we came for, humpback whales galore!  At one point when I was looking through the D3s at about 320mm I saw at least 4 blows from whales.  It was awesome!

Flukes on the Horizon (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1000th second @ 150mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

There was one little calf who I think Lindsey referred to as "Smudge" because of the smear on the underside of his flukes that spent as much time out of the water breaching as he did under water.  An amazing show!

Breaching (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1000th second @340mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)


Whale Dancing (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/800th second @ 110mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)


Belly Flop (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1250th second @ 180mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)


Flukes Galore (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/640th second @ 340mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

It was an amazing adventure made even better by Lindsey, Van, and Scott of Gastineau Guiding and thanks to Disney Cruise Lines.

Until the next image theft,

Enjoy!

 

Photogs Note:

Shooting whales is a lot like shooting action sports.  The trick is to keep your lens zoomed close to maximize your field of view and keep both eyes open to expand it even more.  When you see some action, be ready to zoom all the way in so you can capture the barnacles on their fins!  I keep track of my shutter speed while in aperture priority (A mode on Nikon) because I want to keep my depth of field as shallow as possible.  It's probably not a big deal on a cloudy day like this one but on a sunny day you could end up with a camera at f/8 or greater if you let the camera adjust aperture.  Not a huge deal when on the open ocean but this photog isn't as religious about keeping my sensor clean so at f/8 I end up cleaning a lot of dust spots off the photo which sucks.  However, you could easily put it in shutter priority (S mode on Nikon).  Either way keep your shutter speed above 1/500th of a second because you don't want any breaching whales to be blurry.  I also make sure that I put the lens in VR mode if you have it and set it for "Active" since you're on a pitching boat.  

All that being said, don't ruin the moment by spending the whole time looking through the viewfinder.  What I missed out on while getting these shots is seeing Julie and the boys enjoying the moment.  Something that really is more important than capturing images.  I screwed up but you don't have to.  We photographers sometimes forget that we need to spend some time watching the people you love enjoy the experience that you have provided too.  It's not all about getting the shot, you have to live and love a little too....

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