Being Responsible, How I Get The Shot + What Craft I Use & Why.
This year (2016) I have had the incredible opportunity to explore the Central Coast via kayak, standup paddleboard, jetski, and boat to witness the awesome beauty of these Creatures, The Humpback Whale.
Besides the Whale Watching Tour Operators (we have two here in Avila Beach), I probably have been out there in the ocean more than almost anyone (photographers) hoping to capture a unique shot. I feel as if I have accomplished some good images so far, but feel as if there is so much more I can do with more time. Conditions do dictate the outcome somewhat and it has been very windy on the Central Coast this year.
With that being said, I have to say that what many people don't realize is the utmost care and responsibility I feel to not impede or distract the whales from doing what they do. And this is not only because of the 'Federal law' governing this called the Marine Mammal Protection Act, it's because its the 'right' thing to do. Altering the behavior of the animal or causing distress is my number one priority.
Here are Guidelines I always adhere to while photographing not only Humpback Whales, but all animals such as otters, harbor seals, sealions, and dolphin:
CRAFT I USE TO SHOOT ON
I like shooting from a kayak. The view and experience is nothing short of spectacular. I like being almost at water level and I feel as if the shots look much more dynamic. The kayak is always my first 'go to' I can and I have logged alot of miles in the ocean, just paddling and watching for signs of the whales. Being near the animals while in a kayak really brings you closer to feeling like you are One with them.
Now I am no real fan of irresponsible PWC/Jetski use, but I think there is a purpose for using this craft for my task of taking photos. First, I can shoot lower as I can do in my kayak. Secondly, if the wind comes up I can get back to shore (sometimes I am over five miles offshore.) easier and its just safer. And mainly, it allows me to position myself easier to get the best light and angle. I am really careful to shut motor off when I am aware of the whales around me.
This year, I had the unique opportunity to get out on Seaweed Express' Zodiac. Captain Lee Egan is knowledgeable and also has the right eye to get me to the spots that allow me to get the best shots and be extremely responsible to the whales. We have the same goals. The smaller Zodiac allows me to shoot at a really low angle. I find it difficult to shoot from a larger boat (like most Whale Watching Boats...actually never had any desire to do that...) like a sailboat. The Zodiac is fast and relatively a stable platform to shoot from.
Sometimes I get lucky and the whales just come close. I have never felt fear! I have never felt as if the whales did not know where I was. I have gotten so close to these animals I can smell the distinct odor they emit (actually quite pungent and stinky!) and I could touch them if I wanted. I don't. I am just a bystander...hoping to take a shot that shows the beauty of this animal. I find them to be very aware.
Every time I go out I always ask the Humpback Whale 'Permission' to take their picture. They seem to respond, most of the time, with a 'yes, thanks for asking...' and they proceed to give me a show...most of the time. Not always though.
I shoot with a Canon 7D and a Canon 100-400L Lens...and most of the time its at full length, with is approximately 640mm at that is very far!
Here are Guidelines for Whale Watching (Again)
I am also very happy to work with Ted from Happy Whale and contribute my shots of the Humpback Whale Tails to help identify and track these awesome beasts. Support them! And if you have a shot they may be able to identify the whales by your photos. Go to the site and check it out.
I just love being near these animals. They are just mesmerizing and I am in awe every time I get to see them. I have always loved anything related to the Ocean and getting to spend time with these animals have brought me closer to understanding that everything and everyone is interconnected. Nature and Humans need each other and it's about time we, as humans start to take better care of our Earth, or these animals won't be there nor will we as a species.
This goes beyond any political or spiritual beliefs. Way beyond....
If through some of my photos people get to 'feel' and become more connected to the beauty of all Life, then I feel as if I have accomplished my goal as someone who 'Documents'.
You can always come by my shop, Avila Beach Paddlesports, if you are Local SLO County Person and take a look at all the photos. If one speaks to you and you connect positively then grab one. Many to choose from. I am not out to 'sell' anything...come on down, lets chat.
Or message me here!
Check out this gallery for just some of the most recent shots.