Humpback Whale Spy Hop

22-Apr-2012 Back to Image Gallery

Humpback Whale Spy Hop

Four snorkelers from our Dive 2000 September 2011 Tonga whale tour group were in the water enjoying a wonderful encounter with a mother and baby humpback accompanied by her male escort. Noting how close the whales and our snorkelers were to our boat and the excellent sunlight I decided to fetch my spare camera and shoot some above water pictures of the scene. I took a chance that my wide angle zoom lens might be a better choice than the telephoto I would normally have attached. This decision proved to be one of the most fortuitous photographic decisions I have ever made! As I balanced at the back of the boat waiting for a decent image opportunity the huge male escort peeled off from the group and levitated out of the water before me. He hung vertical in the water column for what seemed like an eternity but in reality would have been about 30 seconds. The world stood still for me as I clicked through shot after shot as the leviathan rose before me. The whale silently observed us and I wonder if he heard the click of my shutter over the screams of delight from Cherie and our other clients.

Photo Data: Location: Vava’u, Tonga. Genre: Above Water Wide Angle & Sunlight. Photo Data: Nikon D7000, Nikkor 12-24mm lens at 12mm, Aperture Priority Exposure Mode. ISO 400. Exposure f4.5 @ 1/1600th sec. Image by Kevin Deacon.

Photo Hints: I try to make a habit of keeping a spare camera on hand programmed for above water photography and protected in a dry bag. With sunlight photography it is always imperative to intuitively know where the sun is at any moment of the day. Famed National Geographic Magazine photographer David Doubilet once told me of a game that was played whenever a team of their staff photographers went out to lunch. While travelling in the car, at any given moment anyone asked `where is the sun?’ the slowest respondent had to pay for lunch! Equipment Comments: My above water lenses are always fitted with a Polarising filter which eliminates light reflections from every surface area on my subjects and in my scenes. This creates images with better definition, superior colour saturation and excellent penetration through any water surface.

Interesting Facts: Female Humpbacks come to the sheltered waters of Vava’u, Tonga every winter to calve and nurse their babies. The male humpbacks congregate in the waters of Vava’u because they want to make more babies. The males are the singers and their haunting tones travel miles through the water column in the hope of attracting a female. When we snorkel above a singer the vibrations of his song reverberate through our bodies, an amazing stimulation of the senses. Groups of males will actually combat to compete for a female and the winner will accompany his female warding off any new contenders, hence the name escort! The escort hopes to mate with her when she is willing.

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