Last week, I returned from my annual pilgrimage to Maui to photograph humpback whales. I spent 10 days chartering a boat with my good friends Robin & Stuart Westmorland and our buddy Ken Howard. We have been photographing whales together for over a decade from Hawaii to California up to Canada and Alaska. We call ourselves the F***ing Whale Crew. Anyone who has ever spent time around whales can probably appreciate how often we curse them for being uncooperative and unpredictable, thus the name of our small fellowship. Anyway, the wind and the whales were working against us most of this trip, however, we were rewarded with this impressive breach close to the boat on our last day. My buddy Patrick Kelley flew over from Kauai to join us that morning. It was his very first visit to Maui. He had basically been on Maui for about 2 hours before joining us to go out for our final day. After departing the Kihei boat ramp, we encountered a group of whales within 20 minutes. I have been fooled enough times over the years by whales who suddenly breach without my camera being ready, so I advised everyone to get their cameras out. I am pretty fast when I need to be, so my camera was out in a flash, but I am pretty sure that I heard Patrick’s lens click onto his camera body about 1/2 second before this whale suddenly flung itself out of the water. Talk about beginner’s luck. You are welcome PK! Once we calmed down from hooting and hollering at what we had just experienced, we realized how fortunate that we all were able to photograph this breathtaking moment.
I spent the week after Labor Day in the San Juan Islands photographing orcas with my good friends Stuart & Robin Westmorland and Doug Perrine. We experienced incredible summer weather and saw a lot of wildlife, including transient orcas, humpback whales, and even a sea otter, but never saw the resident orcas who promptly returned the day after we departed. This is one of my favorite images from the trip. I would like to point out that not only did I perfectly line this orca up swimming towards the setting sun, but I was also steering the boat while shooting. Not many photographers have the ability to do both at the same time.
Over the years, I have tried to photograph pilot whales while visiting Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, but been unsuccessful. However, during my recent visit I had a close encounter with this pod. After observing them logging (resting) on the surface, I cautiously entered the water and photographed this curious mother and calf. It was an exhilarating experience, especially given the unpredictable reputation of these large animals.