Last July, I lead two back-to-back expeditions in Southeast Alaska in search of humpback whales bubble feeding. I co-lead these trips with my good friend and regular partner Tony Wu. I have been photographing the whales doing this exciting and dramatic behavior since 2007. Man, it really was a decade ago that I purchased my little C-Dory and set off for Alaska without a clue. After my initial struggles, I became very good at finding and photographing the whales while they are bubble feeding. Still, it is never easy to do. I often have to spend several days searching for them by covering hundreds of miles of shoreline combined with the nearly constant bad weather, but when I find them it is incredible! I am looking forward to returning to Alaska with Tony in July 2018. Who wants to join us?
Over the last decade, I have focused much of my travel and photography on Alaska. However, my only trip up north this year was in early August when I lead a small group tour in search of my favorite subject, humpback whales bubble-net feeding. There were some ups and downs associated with this particular trip that I do not need to get into, but it was definitely my most productive tour photographically for bubble-net feeding. I told my clients that they should be proud of what we accomplished. The exhilaration of photographing over a dozen humpback whales cooperatively hunting and feeding on schools of herring never gets old. It does get frustrating, but never boring. This image shows a very close encounter where I had to zoom back to 70mm as the whales erupted above the surface with their mouths about to slam shut. If you look in the mouth of the whale on the right, you can even see a silver herring flying through the air about to be engulfed. I created this image using my Canon 7D and Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II lens. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CC 2014, plus Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
I am happy to share my first Alaska photo cover! This image of a humpback whale breaching straight out of the water happens to be one of my personal favorites, so I am pleased that it is being published so prominently. I was fortunate to be able to photograph this amazing moment in July 2010. The weather was perfect and my father was also with me. We were in my small inflatable north of the Brothers Islands in Southeast Alaska when this whale started repetitively breaching for over an hour. It was one of my most memorable days as a photographer.
My image Humpback Whales Bubble Feeding 110 is featured in Outdoor Photographer’s June 2013 article “Pro Tips For Summer Hotspots”. In the article, I describe what it is like to observe humpback whales as they cooperatively feed in Alaska, as well as how to photograph this incredible behavior. Also featured in the article, is one of my personal favorite images Tonquin Valley Sunrise 3 along with a description of how to photograph this dramatic scene located in Jasper National Park.
Aww! I photographed these two cute polar bear cubs during my Alaska Polar Bear Photography Tour last October. They are so adorable I just want to hug them, except for the fact that they would probably eat me. During our tour, we work with local Eskimo guides who take us out in their small boats to the barrier islands to photograph the polar bears. The moms and cubs are usually resting during the day, but become more active in the afternoon. They can often be photographed at the water’s edge like this. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkIII and Canon 300mm f2.8 IS II lens, and processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6.
I’m finally home long enough to start editing my images from the last 6 months. Dang, have I been busy and time flies. This is my favorite image that I photographed while co-leading the Alaska portion of Tony Wu and my dual hemisphere Humpback Whale Tour last summer. See how sunny and perfect the conditions were? I kept telling our clients that the weather never got this nice in Southeast. It was an ideal day to spend with a large group of humpback whales that were bubble-net feeding. As this glorious day progressed, the whales stopped feeding and did what whales do best. Absolutely nothing! However, we decided to work on our tans and patiently stay with the whales hoping that they might do something. Eventually, they all started to breach at the same time. It was insane watching all of these enormous animals launch themselves out of the water, let alone positioning the skiff so that everyone could photograph this behavior. I love how the water cascaded off of this whale, plus there is a small rainbow behind it from its blow. I’ve seen this multiple breaching behavior happen enough times to consider that it is some kind of goodbye gesture. Sure enough, after all this breaching was over, the whales swam off in separate directions. I created this image using a Canon 1DmkIV with my 70-200mm f2.8 IS II lens and processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6.
I love this picture of a polar bear mother with her two cubs! I took it last October while co-leading my Polar Bear Photography Tour in Alaska with Steve Kazlowski. It is a lot of fun helping clients photograph polar bears, especially when the bears are kind enough to pose for us right when the light momentarily breaks through the clouds at sunset. I think that this light only lasted for about 4 minutes. I’m looking forward to returning to Barter Island to lead another tour this October. Who wants to join me? I created this image with my Canon 5DmkIII, Canon 300mm f2.8 IS II lens, and Canon 1.4X tele-extender and processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6.
I got to travel with my client-friend Bryn Forbes in Alaska and Tonga this summer. Though the purpose of the trips were to photograph humpback whales, Bryn spent a lot of time shooting motion blur abstracts. We all gave him a hard time about it, but he motivated me to try shooting some myself during my later adventures.
I created this image while co-leading my Polar Bear Photography Tour with Steve Kazlowski in October. We drove our clients out to the bone-bile to photograph the polar bears at sunrise, but there was only one and it was not doing much, so we took advantage of this amazing light to shoot landscape images instead. I forgot to bring my tripod, so I decided to experiment and shoot a bunch of motion blur abstracts over the Arctic Ocean. I think everyone thought that I was just as crazy (as we all thought Bryn was on my earlier trips) until they saw my results. I created this images with my Canon 5DmkIII and 300mm f2.8 IS II lens and processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6.
I’m kind of looking forward to heading back to Alaska next week. I say kind of because of the terrible June weather we have had here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m sure that it will be quite similar during most of July in Alaska which is kind of depressing. Oh, well. That is the price to pay for beautiful images in the 49th state. As I have recently finished editing my backlog of photos, I rediscovered this spectacular sunset image from my visit to Denali National Park last July. I had a professional photographer’s permit which allowed me to drive the Wonder Lake Road in my own vehicle for 9 days. It was an amazing experience that allowed me to create some fantastic wildlife and landscape images. The beautiful sunset light illuminating the virga in the distance caught me by surprise. I quickly jumped out of the van and ran down to this tundra pond next to the side of the road. It’s moments like this that I need to be confident in my abilities to set up my camera very quickly and efficiently. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 35mm f2 ZE lens, and Singh-Ray 3-stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which was processed using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6. I also applied my new Nik Software filters including Dfine 2.0 to remove noise and the White Neutralizer in Color Efex 4.
I’m not sure that I like this image as much as the other wide-angle brown bear image that I shared the other day, but what I do like is that this was created on a rare sunny day on the Katmai Coast. I’ve got a lot of images of bears in the rain with a telephoto lens. Yawn. I think that wide-angle images showing bears in their environment are much more interesting. Obviously, photographing bears like this requires a lot of effort in the field and being very close to bears. I do not encourage anyone without experience around bears to try creating images like this. However, many of the bears on the outer coast of Katmai National Park are not afraid of humans and under most conditions, do not perceive us as threats. It was a privilege to be so close to these wild animals. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII, 17-40mm f4 lens, and Singh-Ray 2-stop Hard GND filter. I remotely triggered the camera using 2 PocketWizards, but I was sitting not too far to away. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.