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Thread: Humpback whales

  1. #1

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    Chris C

    Humpback whales

    This is one of my photos from a recent trip up to Alaska. We were in a small boat, about 30 people total on the trip, so we got into a couple of small coves and islets, and saw some incredible wonders such as this.

    A little background: This is a picture of humpback whales doing something called bubble-net feeding. They basically swim together in a big upwards circle/spiral, blowing bubbles and forcing a huge school of shrimp / krill / minnows into a tiny area. As they approach the surface, they all shoot up and open their mouths, gobbling up everything stuck in the bubble. What makes this even more fascinating is that it's a learned behavior, and appears to only be used by approximately 30-40 whales in total.

    As far as the photo goes, we were in a series of little rubber zodiac boats, each holding about 10 people. The whales had been feeding for about 2 hours thus far, slowly moving around a little cove. All of a sudden, the guide driving the boat revs the engine and tells everyone to look to the side. Not five seconds later, what you see in the picture came shooting out of the water less than 40 feet from us.

    Humpback whales

    The photo is the original, simply saved as a jpg and uploaded. I'm experimenting a little bit on how to process it, because as you can see the ocean and sky are almost the same uniform grey.

  2. #2
    JPS's Avatar
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    Re: Humpback whales

    Hi Chris,
    this must have been a great experience.
    I agree it does need some PP, so as to get the best from the picture. Please re-post once you have done this, I would like to see the final 'To keep' picture.

  3. #3
    GeorgeM's Avatar
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    Re: Humpback whales

    That's an amazing picture. You must have been thrilled!!

  4. #4
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Just add 'MacKenzie'

    Re: Humpback whales

    One of nature's most amazing sights, which I would dearly love to see. Yet there are people out there who want to go hunting them.

  5. #5

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    Re: Humpback whales

    Ooooh I am so jealous. I spend about 6 months of the year, out on a boat photographing the humpbacks on their migration from the Antarctic up the eastern side of Australia and then back again. Although I have been fortunate enough to get some spectacular shots I have never got anything like this because they rarely feed on their migration. Mass bubble net feeding like this is extraordinary and I am determined that I will get to the Arctic to see it. As for PP yes I agree that a little is needed particularly to bring out the details on the underside, the pink in their mouths and the barnacles on their jaws but gently does it, this is a fine quite special pic which would suffer from too much tweaking. One of the biggest challenges photographing any whale but particularly humpbacks because they are so acrobatic is that correct exposure on the whale can result in horrible blowout in the bubbles and splash, thank goodness for exposure compensation. I think you have done really well with your settings as you you have all the detail in the splash and should be able to recover a huge amount from the whale. I would suggest though that you shoot in RAW with whales. PP can be really important to get the best in the difficult circumstances that whale photography presents and you need to have all of the details available to make the best of your pics. Just by way of comparison I have attached a shot of a breaching humpback that I took this year so you can see the complete opposite problems that we have here. Clear bright sky which is nice but such harsh light. And though I like my shot I really love yours. The drama of group feeding and the fantastic turmoil and chaos is overwhelming. I take my hat off to you for the shot, well done. I also would like to see the final result.

    Peter

    Humpback whales

  6. #6

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    Mike

    Re: Humpback whales

    Great capture! Where was the tour boat out of? Frederick Sound in southeast Alaska is one of the best places in the world to view this kind of activity. I haven't seen any this close, but the general level of whale activity is astounding. It is truly awesome to see these guys so easily propel themselves mostly out of the water.

  7. #7

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    Re: Humpback whales

    Superb catch.

  8. #8

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    Re: Humpback whales

    Thanks everyone! At the time, I was perhaps the only person in the boat that was more concerned with getting the shot than getting accidentally hit by a rogue whale, but it paid off! The boat was based in Juneau, and we had an extra day afterwards in Juneau before leaving.

    This was near Pavlov Harbor, which I think is down in the Frederick sound area. We basically motored in a large circle from Juneau, down to Frederick Sound and then up to Glacier Bay NP, then back to Juneau.

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