Monday, 29 August 2011

Photographing Whales

Yesterday was our last day on Fraser Island and once again the Gods of Fraser smiled upon us. As we boarded the Hervey Bay Whale Watch Quick Cat II with skipper Brian at the helm, a pea soup fog slowly surrounded us. Many on board looked worried but I knew that this was a good sign. I tried to alleviate the group that by the time we motored up to Platypus Bay it should lift and usually after a thick fog the day will have clear blue skies – perfect conditions for whale watching. All we needed now was whales in the bay.

At the Jetty at Kingfisher Bat Resort just before we took off
and the fog in the background got thicker but the light was awesome!
Nikon D3 f13, 1/80th, ISO 200, exp compensation -0.33,
Focal Length 66mm, polariser filter used.

Image by Danielle Lancaster

And whales we had! We stopped counting at 12 and they came right into us so we could almost touch them. They were splendid. Pods of no less than three at a time waved back at us, slapped at the water and passed from one side of the boat to the other (thankfully underneath it) and rolled in just a mere few centimeters under the water right next to us. It was truly another memorable whale watching trip.

How close did they come!
Image by Danielle Lancaster
Nikon D3 f8, 1/640th, ISO 800, exp compensation -0.3,
Focal Length 52mm, polariser filter used.

 We often term it as whale soup!
Can you see the two?
Image by Danielle Lancaster
Nikon D3 f8, 1/320th, ISO 800, exp compensation -0.33,
Focal Length 32mm, polariser filter used.

 Playing to the people:)
They love the interaction and while at first you feel a fool waving
and calling it does make them come to us for a play.
Nikon D3 f8, 1/400th, ISO 800, exp compensation -0.33,
Focal Length 36mm, polariser filter used.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Platypus Bay, on the north western side of Fraser Island is one of my favourite locations to view humpback whales. The reasons are very simple: it's usually calm, I have never missed seeing numerous whales each time I go out and the numbers each year just keep on growing.

It is hard to imagine we nearly hunted them to extinction and that when whaling in Australia was finally banned in 1963 it was estimated there were only 200 individual Southern Humpback whales left. Numbers are increasing at the rate of 8% to 11% per year. Today it is thought between four to five-thousand humpbacks that pass along the east coast of Australia will venture into Platypus bay.

I was a happy camper and not alone. All on our Bluedog Kingfisher Bay Photography Tour were more than ecstatic and it was a brilliant way to finish off yet another tour. See you next year Brian!

A Couple of Humpback Whale Facts
Whales migrate along the Eastern Coast of Australia from August to October south to the Antarctic with their calves.

Humpback whales belong to the group of mammals called Cetacea. This group includes all of the dolphins, whales and porpoises.

There are two populations of humpback whales in the world, one living in the southern
hemisphere and the other in the northern hemisphere.

Humpback whales are marine mammals and like other mammals they are warm blooded and air breathing. They give birth to live young and their young suckle milk. At some stage of their life they have some hair on their bodies. The humpback calf will suckle up to the rate of 400 to 500 litres a day.

Humpback whales are the fifth largest of all the dolphins and whales - with adults growing up to 15 metres and weighing up to 40 tonnes. A new born calf is around 4.5 metres long and 1.5 tonnes in weight.

A Couple of Whale Photography Tips
Call out and wave to them – yes you will feel silly at first but they do react to us and will come closer to have a look.

Use a polariser.

If you can take two cameras: one with a larger zoom or telephoto lens and another wider lens. I generally use a 500mm and a 24-70mm.

Take the time to enjoy the moment without the camera in front of your face. They are truly incredible creatures!

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