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Friday, May 11, 2012

Wildlife Photography - Killer Whale Photos

A couple more Killer Whale photos to further discuss whale photography.  Both images (click on them to get larger view) were taken with the Canon 1D MK III body.  The first photo was shot in Monterey Bay, California during May. Gray whales migrate from the warm waters of St. Ignacio lagoon in Mexico (after giving birth) to the food rich waters of Alaska. They stay close to the shore and pass by the Bay around Spring. Transient Killer Whales can be found there every year to prey on the Gray Whale calves.  This Orca mother and calf pair was part of a big pod. The weather was nice with intermittent sunshine. I was in a small boat and used the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS lens. ISO 400 was used and the aperture was wide open.  The photo shoot was quite straight forward and it was just up to chance and patience in order to get good shots.

The second photo was taken around Vancouver Island in the height of summer.  It was during the salmon run and the Orcas were most probably from the resident pods, feeding on the fish.  The weather was gloomy, with a light rain.  I was in a zodiac and used the Canon 400 f/4 DO lens, set wide open with ISO @ 3200.  The reason was I had high hopes of catching the Killer Whales breaching and I needed the fast shutter speed to freeze the action.  The MK III's high ISO capability is not very good, especially with moving objects.  Even the MK IV has a lot left to be desired. I find the noise level too high for any ISO setting over 3200 when photographing moving wildlife.  That's why I am so anxious to get a hold of the upcoming Canon 1D-X, which is supposed to have excellent high ISO capability.      

This shot was much more challenging.  Breaching whales are unpredictable and happens in a split of a second.  The light was very poor and the Killer Whale breached far away from the zodiac.  I was lucky he was breaching towards me and my reflex was fast enough to get this shot. Visit my website under the Equipment section to see the gear I used to take these photos and be sure to view the slide shows on different whales on the site as well.

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