Sunday, August 30, 2015
We Got Lucky: New Blue Whale Shots
I was fortunate to spend time in the open ocean off Baja California recently, hoping to photograph kelp patties -- floating masses of kelp -- and the many types of fish that gather under the patties.
We got real lucky one day.
This is a blue whale, the largest animal to ever exist on earth. Like all whales, they are pretty shy and are extremely difficult to get close to. We lucked out with this individual, who approached our boat closely.
With any encounter with a whale, the opportunity to make photographs of the animal is exceedingly fleeting. Having more than 10 seconds to actually see the whale and photograph it is about all one gets. Taking still photographs involves knowing your camera gear so well that you don't have to think about it. There's no time to set focus, so you need to set focus before the encounter. You need to know what the light conditions are so that you can set your ISO and shutter speed beforehand. If you get anything wrong, you will end up with nothing to show for this once-in-a-lifetime encounter. Shooting video is even harder -- you have to hold your breath, dive down at least a bit to get away from surface chop, and try to shoot steadily for at least 15 seconds without shaking the camera.
Several divers and photographers have obtained photos of blue whales both topside and underwater, but obtaining photographs of such large, fast-swimming animals can only be considered a rare, special event. As an example, perhaps only one or two dozen photographers have ever captured images of blue whales; and film teams have routinely spent 60 days hoping to film blue whales with no success.