Vava'u Humpback Whale Calf 12

Vava’u Humpback Whale Calf 12

This week, I am going to share several images of baby animals that I have photographed during my recent trips, starting with this gregarious humpback whale calf in Tonga. While I was snorkeling on the surface, this calf swam right underneath me while its mom patiently watched below. I really like the arching position of the calf’s body and pectoral fins, as well as the eye contact that the calf made with me. In order to photograph an image like this, I have to spend a lot of time searching for friendly whales and be comfortable swimming in the open ocean with my camera. Most of my best pictures were taken at 17mm, which is a very close encounter. 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. Check out my photo gallery for more humpback whale photos underwater, of breaches, tails, spouting and bubble-net feeding.

Vava'u Humpback Mother & Calf 1

Vava’u Humpback Mother & Calf 1

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.

Vava'u Humpback Whale Calf 3

Vava’u Humpback Whale Calf 3

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.

Humpback Whale Breach 200

Humpback Whale Breach 200

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.

Barter Island Polar Bears 100

Barter Island Polar Bears 100

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.

Kaktovik Sunrise Abstract 1

Kaktovik Sunrise Abstract 1

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.

Vava'u Humpback Whale Breach 1

Vava’u Humpback Whale Breach 1

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.

Ha'apai Humpback Whale Breach 3

Ha’apai Humpback Whale Breach 3

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.

Barter Island Polar Bears 26

Barter Island Polar Bears 26

I was very happy with my first encounters with polar bears while co-leading my Polar Bear Photography Tour this fall. These amazing creatures are incredibly photogenic and life-changing to see in the wild. I’m currently updating my website with information about next year’s tours, but for anyone that is interested our scheduled dates are September 24-27, September 28-October 1, and October 2-5. The cost will be $5400 all inclusive from Fairbanks, except for the optional $175 per boat ride paid directly to our native guides. We are also able to offer a multiple tour discount to anyone that is interested in extending their photographic opportunities by joining back-to-back tours.

During this year’s tours, my clients and I photographed these two-year old cubs playing in the Arctic Ocean from the safety of our native guide’s boat. They appeared to be having a ton of fun as they played with each other for several hours. Their interactions were frequently so comical that we all chuckled out loud. We were also fortunate to be able to photograph them in beautiful golden sunlight. I created this image with a Canon 1DmkIV and my 400mm f4 DO IS lens. It is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Barter Island Polar Bears 35

Barter Island Polar Bears 35

The young polar bears that I photographed during my recent Polar Bear Photography Tour in Alaska spent a lot of time playing with their siblings both on land and in the Arctic Ocean. Polar bears are considered marine mammals since they spend so much of their lives in and out of the water. They are capable of swimming hundreds of miles when they have to. I really like the way that this young bear looked over its shoulder and right into my lens. I find eye contact like this incredibly compelling. Of course, the nice low angle light was an added bonus. I created this image with a Canon 1DmkIV and my 400mm f4 DO IS lens. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.