This is a photo of a tender moment being shared by a humpback whale mother and her young calf. Humpback moms spend most of their time resting beneath the surface, but their babies have to breath much more frequently. When a calf comes up to breath, it will often playfully frolic on the surface, otherwise, it stays close to mom and hides underneath her pectoral fins or tail. After this calf came up for a breath, I photographed it gently nuzzling up against its mom’s belly. Aww, cute! Check out several more stunning images of these two humpback whales underwater. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkIII and Canon 17-40mm f4 lens inside my Ikelite 5DmkIII housing with an 8″ dome port. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6, plus I applied Nik Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.
Recently, I have been rethinking my workflow and processing techniques. I am not talking about a total overhaul of the way that I edit, but rather becoming more efficient and effective. Processing underwater images requires much more effort than above water images, particularly if I want a gray whale swimming through a blue background. For this reason, I have been holding off on editing my new underwater humpback whale images until now.
Tony Wu and I co-lead an exciting Humpback Whale Photography Tour in both Alaska and Tonga last summer. This beautiful portrait is from our first encounter with a friendly mother and calf in Tonga. Momma was resting about 20′ below the surface as the curious calf swam over to check me out and pretty much ran me over. We did not actually make contact, but if I would have extended my arm bent at the elbow I would have been able to touch it. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkIII and Canon 17-40mm f4 lens inside my Ikelite 5DmkIII housing with an 8″ dome port. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6, plus I applied Nik Color Efex 4‘s white balance filter.
I love photographing humpback whale breaches. It is one of the most rewarding, but frustrating ways to use a camera. First, I have to be lucky enough to even see a humpback breach. At this point in my whale watching career, I am guessing that I have probably witnessed close to 1000 breaches. Even if I see a whale leap out of the water, that does not mean that I can photograph it. The only hope I have of getting a shot is to have a whale(s) start breaching multiple times. Next, I have to be able to close the distance so that when the whale breaches I am close enough to fill the frame. Keep in mind that I am trying to do all this while moving around on a boat that I am either piloting myself, or in the case of this image just a passenger. Finally, the stars need to align properly as my spider-sense tingles for me to be able to point my camera in the right direction at the moment that the whale begins to breach. Don’t even get me started on whether my camera’s autofocus works properly or not. I photographed this spectacular breach while co-leading the Tonga portion of Tony Wu and my Megaptera Mania Tour this past August. I created this image using my Canon 7D and 70-200mm f2.8 IS II lens and processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6.
Now that my new website is online, I am excited to start sharing my spectacular new images from my adventures during the second half of 2012!
In July and August, Tony Wu and I co-lead our first Megaptera Mania Tour with 6 wonderful clients. After the Tonga portion of tour was over, I spent a second week whale watching with just 2 of our clients. (I should mention that anyone who travels with me for any length of time also becomes a close friend.) This humpback whale calf seemingly levitating is my most interesting image. See the humpback whale photos gallery for more spectacular images!
We spent the better part of the morning following this mother, calf, and escort. They basically did nothing for hours, but we stayed with them because there weren’t a lot of other whale options around at the time. However, we could sense that something was going to happen, and eventually the 3 whales exploded from the water in what can only be described as a goodbye greeting to each other. This breaching behavior lasted for about 15 minutes, during which we frantically tried to point our cameras in the right direction as they continuously erupted from the water. After the whales settled down, I was flabbergasted to discover this breaching calf photo while reviewing my images. Incredible! I created this image using my Canon 7D and 70-200mm f2.8 IS II lens and processed the RAW file using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6. The original image was a little tight on the right side, but since it was just empty background I slightly expanded it to allow for more space.
I do not want people to forget that I am a landscape photographer. Sure, my work is increasingly focused on wildlife and underwater images, but that does not mean that I have stopped trying to photograph spectacular landscape scenes. As an example, consider this beautiful sunrise that I photographed while visiting the US National Park of American Samoa on remote Ofu Island last December. This ledge was not too far from the Vaoto Lodge where I stayed for one very memorable week. I like how the small waves occasionally washed over the ledge during the brief golden light of the tropical sunrise. Man, what’s not to love about secluded tropical beaches? Though I am headed back to Alaska for most of July, I have to admit that I am really looking forward to being back in the South Pacific when I visit Tonga as part of my humpback whale tour in August. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, 17-40mm f4 lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 2-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS6. I also recently picked up Nik Software as my newest sponsor. I applied my new Nik filters including Dfine 2.0 to remove noise and the White Neutralizer in Color Efex 4. What do you think of my results?
My regular readers have probably noticed that I have been on an extensive underwater photography binge in the last year. I’ve always said that I aspire to shoot mostly underwater subjects, and am happy that most of my 2012 trips will be at or below the surface. So sticking with that theme, here is another underwater image from my December trip to the National Park of American Samoa. I spent a week at the Vaoto Lodge on Ofu Island and had this idyllic beach setting all to myself each day. This is my favorite over-under image from all the time that I spent in the water. I really like how the coral rubble in the sandy bottom leads the viewer’s eye directly into the jagged peaks. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens with a B+W +2 graduated neutral density filter inside my Aquatech 5DmkII housing with an Aquatech 8″ dome port. This image is a single-exposure which required a minimal amount of processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
I spent much of my visit to the US National Park of American Samoa on Ofu Island photographing over-underwater split images. This is one of my favorites. I like the coral reef with the refracted light dancing across the sandy bottom below with the dramatic scenery and clouds above. There are even a few tropical fish visible in the original, though, I doubt any of my readers will be able to see them at this resolution. Creating an image like this required a lot of trial and error. Waves were constantly washing over the front of my dome, so I had to remove the water drops with a hand towel which I kept underneath a ballcap on my head. I’m glad that I had the whole beach to myself as I must have looked like a dork, but it got the job done. It was also really hot. Most of the Samoans stayed in the shade during the hottest part of the day, but I was out there swimming with my camera under the intense sun getting thoroughly sunburned. But it was fun. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens with a B+W +2 graduated neutral density filter inside my Aquatech 5DmkII housing with a Aquatech 8″ dome port. This image is a single-exposure which required a minimal amount of processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
Since I returned home last week, I have not had a lot of time to edit my new images, but this one is definitely worth sharing. I photographed this dramatic sunset while visiting the US National Park of American Samoa on Ofu Island last month. It took a lot of effort to travel this out-of-the-way tropical destination, which was part of the charm, but also explains why it is the least visited of the US National Parks. I stayed at the Vaoto Lodge where Jim, Ben, & Marge were delightful hosts. Other than the 2 researchers who were doing coral studies, I had the entire stretch of beach in the Park all to myself. I photographed a number of brilliant sunrise and sunsets, but this was the most spectacular. As much as I travel, it is still special when the clouds light up with intense color like this. I composed this image by framing the dramatic peaks in the distance with this eroded limestone shelf with waves washing over it in the foreground. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 28mm f2 ZE lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 3-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.