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Friday, July 27, 2012

Alaskan Photo Safari - Day Ten

Double the Humpback, Double the Fun 

Born To Be Wild

Hold your head up high

Blue iceberg on Shakes Lake, SE Alaska 

The thing about wildlife photography in Alaska is everyday there is something new and different. One can never predict the weather or the sightings. I have been here many times and each trip is unique in its own way.

We went out again a couple of days ago to Frederick Sound in the small boat as usual. The weather started out with the customary very low clouds and gray sky but the air is sparkling clean and fresh. The seas can be rough at times but also peaceful and calm, depending on where one is in the Sound. The search went on for hours, occasionally one or two Humpbacks will appear but they are too busy feeding or resting so we left them alone.

Finally we came across a pod of about twelve Humpbacks scattered around a small area.  They were feeding voraciously and the hope of Bubble Net Feeding came to my mind.  But one look at the depth finder indicates the food is about 100 feet below and they don't look like small fishes, but mostly krill and plankton.  Another confirmation of that is there are no birds and gulls circling around the surface.

My hopes being dashed for photographing BNF, I settled down to wait for the whales to surface. They came up for air and immediately went back down. Our boat is now in the middle of the Sound surrounded by a few islands. The water is calm and glass like, the weather has improved a bit. There is not a single boat in sight for miles. We are the only thing on the water as far as the eye can see and there is a sacred silence in the air.  I closed my eyes to meditate for a few minutes. It was refreshing and for a moment I can forget where I am.  

The tranquility was unexpectedly shattered by loud trumpet sounds from the Humpbacks' blow. It was music to my ears. At least six whales came up close to the boat, their blows were brassy and shrill, the loud sound bounced against the boat and the surrounding mountains and the echoes came roaring back. It was exhilarating and surreal to hear these stereophonic, even quadraphonic Humpback sounds. More whales began to surface and they seem to decide to take a rest all at once.  They stayed on the surface, blowing and turning.

"Double breach!" yelled the captain behind my back, suddenly.  I quickly turned and fired away.  There was no time to think or react, I just fired off a burst of shots in the direction of the breach.  All I saw was a split second of two big, black blurry objects shooting out of the water followed by an immense splash circle of water. Fortunately from experience, I always have my camera on an aperture and shutter speed setting to anticipate quick action and burst of shots. Humpbacks do not generally breach during the feeding season. Seeing a breaching whale closeup in the Sound is a real treat. Photographing a breaching whale is a real privilege. Documenting a double breach is over the moon for me.

Also did some landscape shots but once again, my photo of Shakes Lake does not do justice to its natural beauty. The boat was moving and I did not have a tripod and polarizer filter. This is primarily a wildlife trip for me. On my way to Vancouver Island, Canada.


Zoya said...

Great posting! Wildlife photography is awesome job and needs lots of concentration in it.Thanks for sharing amazing pics.
Animal Safari

Michael Daniel Ho said...

Thanks. I just came back from the Canadian tundra, photographing Polar bears. Take a look at my blog posts here -