Wednesday, June 25, 2014


One of our excursions while we were in Juneau during our Alaska vacation was to go whale watching.  This involved traveling 15-20 minutes in a jet boat to some location in the Juneau area that the guides knew were frequented by humpback whales.  They essentially guaranteed whale sightings, though the quality of the sightings could vary.  It was cool and cloudy during the excursion, but at least it wasn't raining.

Shortly after we arrived at the location we started seeing signs of the whales, distant sightings of spouts, a couple of tails as the whales dove down, and what I would call fin slapping.  But the whales were a long way off, perhaps 200-300 yards or more, and the photos I was getting were marginal at best, despite the fact that I was using my 300 mm zoom lens.

Conditions for taking photos were less than ideal.  The sea was pretty choppy and I was struggling to keep my balance without holding on to one of the rails, not to mention the havoc the choppiness was wreaking with my trying to keep the camera still and the horizon level.

Despite the cloudy conditions, I felt the light was adequate to leave the ISO setting at a fairly low 200 and the aperture at f/11.  That left shutter speeds in the range of 1/200 sec. to 1/640 sec., fast enough, I thought, to avoid camera shake or movement in the whales.  In retrospect, I probably should have increased the ISO a bit and opened the aperture to f/8 to increase shutter speed.  Next time.

Then things started to happen much closer to our boat.  The first close shot was of a whale's tail as it dove.

There appears to be a red frond-like object hanging off the end of the whale's tail in this photo.  I have asked a number of people if they can identify it, but no one has been able to give me an answer, yet.

Although this whale was really close, mine was a side rather than rear view.  Even so, I was delighted to get a shot at such close range, though this shot did involve a little cropping.  After that we began getting breaching at very close range, at least a half dozen occurrences.  Fortunately, I had remembered to set my camera on rapid fire mode, so I could get six or eight shots in a couple of seconds, hopefully ensuring that one or more of the shots would catch the whales at peak breach.   Here are a couple of those shots.

In this second shot one can even see the spume coming off the whale's "chin" and fin, as well as the water cascading off the it's body.  Pretty good.  These were close enough that I really didn't have to do much cropping, other than to level out the horizon.  I had a few more similar shot sequences but just let them go either because they didn't have quite the quality or because there were other boat passengers who obscured some of the view.  Perhaps the best shots were those of the following breaching that I got in a continuous sequence, over about a two-second period.

Needless to say, I was extremely happy with the occasion and the results.  And the guides were equally happy. 

When our boat returned to the marina and shuttle bus, it had begun raining, and close to the bus was a bald eagle patiently perched on a pole at the dock.  I was patient in turn, waiting for the eagle to turn his/her head for a profile shot.  Here is what I got.

 A close look reveals the rain in the air, which didn't seem to be a concern to the eagle, who I'm sure is very familiar with Juneau's weather.


1 comment:

  1. Wow! Greatn pictures of the whales. Something I always wanted to do. Good picture of the eagle also. I am very impuressed with your talent on taking pictures.