Whale Photography 101

We live in a world of perpetual documentation. Everyone wants to be the person to record every pivotal moment in their lives (or their food, whatever, we’re not here to judge). This has given rise to the idea that everyone is a photographer.

Among the people that lament this fact the most, are wildlife photographers. Actual, real-life, professional, photographers. The investment they have made in their equipment, training, skill, and time is phenomenal, and yet they regularly witness people with a 3-year-old smart phone, taking a photo through a window, hoping to get National Geographic quality shots.

That’s probably not gonna happen.

One of the reasons we humans find wildlife photography so darn stunning, is because it often captures things that we can’t see with our naked eye. Sometimes this is because us non-wildlife-photographers don’t have the time or patience to wait the hours, days (or sometimes weeks/months!) required to get the shot we desire. More often, it’s because human eyes physically can’t see far enough, or process images fast enough, to see the details that make wildlife photography so compelling. Remember when an Australian photographer caught a sea lion riding a whale?

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Ocean Magic Wildlife Adventure June 17 3:30

As the tug boat with its load left the harbour, and the cruise ships headed into Victoria, the 3.30pm Ocean Magic 2 vessel turned east on route to find the Transient killer whales that had been seen on an earlier trip. We were traveling north up Haro Strait when word came in that many Orca were heading in from the west. Capt Gord, and crew members Mika, and Dan turned the boat around and we headed south to try to find the Southern Residents. We came across them, porpoising and traveling fast on the incoming tide. Whitecaps were beginning to form with the strong westerly wind which made for a thrilling ride while watching these magnificent whales plying the waves. Members of all three pods, J, K , L were identified as they swam by. Two of the oldest females in J Pod were seen, J 2, Granny, and J 8 Spieden as well as other members of K Pod, Raggedy, K 40, and K 21 Cappuccino. There is nothing so exciting as seeing these charismatic marine mammals all heading our way in what we call a Superpod! What a special trip this afternoon provided for our guests and we even had glimpses of a Harbour Porpoise.

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Ocean Magic Wildlife Adventure June 17 12:15

It was a beautiful afternoon shaping up for the 12.15pm Ocean Magic 2 vessel as we left the harbour with Capt. Gord in the wheelhouse. Biologist Mika, and Naturalists Dan and Brandon gave an expert presentation of our safety procedures and discussed the possible wildlife to be found in these nutrient rich waters. There were many sail boats, with sails flying high, participating in the Vanisle 360 race. We turned east and then north up Haro Strait to find the 5 Transient Killer whales reported just off Sidney. On the way we saw a Bald Eagle take down a gull. We did find the apex hunters, 5 whales, the T10’s and T26’s close to the township of Sidney . They appeared to be in traveling mode. These killer whales are the marine mammal hunters, preferring seals, sea lions, porpoise and dolphins and even small whales. Our guests on board were thrilled with this encounter and were all smiles when we disembarked at the dock in Victoria. Another great trip with Prince of Whales!
Marie, Orca-Magic

Most of the images on the blog are shot with a 400 mm telephoto lens. Because of our restrictions around wildlife (100+ meters),

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Ocean Magic Wildlife Adventure May 29

Capt. Scott took the Ocean Magic from Victoria picturesque inner harbour out past the breakwater at Ogden Point and headed us west. We went past Race Rocks Ecological Reserve and along the west side of Vancouver Island. We reached Beecher Bay, here we caught up with T20 and T21. These Transient Killer Whales were deep in the bay, working the rugged shore line for their favorite food, Harbour Seals. With a large group of gulls following their every move it was soon apparent that they were feeding. Our Capt. Scott held the Ocean magic in the strong winds and kept us in perfect position to view these Orca. We then took a tour of the coast line, stopping to view Bald Eagles, Eagles nests and a trip through Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Here we saw Seal Lions, Seals, Cormorants, Oyster Catchers and Race Rocks Light House. Once again our passengers were all smiles as we docked back in Victoria’s Inner Harbour!
Clint “Orcawizard”

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Ocean Magic Wildlife Adventure May 27

It doesn’t matter which way we travel, we will always find some of the great west coast wildlife that frequents this area. The 12.15pm Ocean Magic with Capt Gord and his crew of Naturalists, Liz and Dan on board, headed the vessel south and east where we were able to enjoy the scenery. Calm waters and a sky full of billowy clouds set the tone for this trip. The Tall Ships of the S.A.L.T organization, the ‘Pacific Grace’ and ‘ Pacific Swift ‘ were out with their sails aloft. Sea birds and gulls gathered over bait balls near Trail Island and at Hein Bank we found an elusive Minke Whale that did what Minke whales do best, disappear after two to three breaths at the surface and then change directions. We watched this animal for a while and then went to Whale Rock to observe sea lions and Harbour seals. Two intrepid kayakers were enjoying the turbulent waters near the rocks. It was another great wildlife trip with ‘Prince of whales ‘.
Marie ‘Orca-Magic’

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Ocean Magic Wildlife Adventure May 13

It was a picture perfect afternoon as Capt. Gord of the 12.15pm Ocean Magic vessel, headed our boat full of guests out of the harbour and toward a south east direction toward Hein Bank. It was here that reports of Transient killer whales were to be found. Transient ‘Orca ‘ are true apex hunters, feeding on marine mammals. On our way to find these fascinating animals we passed the ‘Pacific Swift’ a Tall Ship of the S.A.L.T. organization as well as a pair of Tufted Puffins in their spectacular breeding plumage. The lack of wind made for calm water with stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Baker in Washington State. We found the Transient Orca traveling slowly south west. We observed two big male Orca with their large dorsal fins, as they came to the surface.They were members of the T 75 family group. The research vessel from the ‘Centre for Whale Research’ on San Juan Island was out this afternoon, indentifying the whales. Following our views of the Orca we headed west to visit Race Rocks Ecological Reserve where we saw many Steller and California Sea Lions. Harbour and Elephant seals were also evident. Five different age Bald Eagles in various plumages were seen on a single rock.

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Ocean Magic Adventure May 3

We set sail on a windy afternoon with Capt. Gord in the wheelhouse. Our vessel headed east from the harbour and encountered some intrepid souls negotiating the wind and the waves while para-surfing. We soon encountered some Dall’s Porpoise while traveling north up Haro Strait in search of Orca. The wind and waves soon abated and our crew of Naturalists, Mika and Liz announced to the guests on board, that Orca had been reported near Pender Island. We found members of J Pod Orca heading north past Turn Point. ‘ J 2, ‘Granny ‘, J Pod’s oldest female celebrating 100 yrs of age this year, appeared to be in the lead, with J 8 and L 87. J 28 and her youngster J 46 were also seen with other young members of this Pod.J 27, ‘ Blackberry ‘, a 20yr old male showed off his tall straight dorsal fin as he swam by. A pair of Bald Eagles were also seen on a small island. It was a great encounter once again with these magical creatures, the ‘ ORCA’ that ply the waters of the picturesque Pacific Northwest.
Marie, ‘ Orca-Magic. ‘
All these photos are taken with 300mm lens and cropped for best internet viewing.

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Ocean Magic Adventure April 30 2011

The ocean magic set out on a perfect Saturday with sunshine and warm temps in search of wildlife. We headed east in Juan de Fuca into Haro Strait. We made our way to Spieden island where we caught glimpses of the goats who inhabit the island. As quoted by Wikipedia; “Spieden Island is a privately owned island (James Jannard—founder and major shareholder of Oakley, Inc.[1]) in the San Juan Archipelago in the U.S. state of Washington. It has a land area of 516.4 acres (209.0 ha) and no permanent resident population. In the 1970’s the island was used for big game hunting; game animals were imported and a hotel, airport, and small hangar built to accommodate visitors. This no longer occurs due to the risk of shots carrying across to highly populated San Juan Island. The resident animal population still includes exotic animals such as Mouflon sheep from Corsica and Sika deer from Asia”.

We checked out the “mans club” which consists of a group of lounging Stellar sealions who were hauled out onto the rocks and some who appeared to be enjoying the sun. For the first time, I got to see what a walking sealion looks like,

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Ocean Magic Marine Wildlife Adventure April 22 12:15

Capt. Scott slipped the Ocean Magic out of Victoria’s inner harbor and out into a spectacular afternoon. The sun was shining and the waters calm, our search took us east past Trial Island and on to Hein Bank. Here Capt. Scott put us in excellent position to view Minke Whales. These gentle giants were feeding in the shallow water, breaking the surface for a quick breath. The water was alive with sea birds, picking off the abundant supply of feed. Mika and Liz filled our passengers with information and answered many questions on our marine adventure. Our trip then took us to Whale Rock where we saw Stellar Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, Bald Eagles, Cormorants and Rhinoceros Auklets. The water was alive with wildlife and our crew made sure we took it all in, a truly great afternoon on the water with Prince of Whales!
Clint “Orcawizard”

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Ocean Magic Adventure April 14 2011

Today was a rather wild ride on the Ocean Magic!. With captain Scott at the helm with naturalists Liz, Brandon, and Dan, we left the inner harbour in search of wildlife and encountered some active weather. I will admit that I find it rather thrilling and enjoyable as the Ocean Magic rides  well in rough seas. In April, we are not always  guaranteed to find cetaceans (killer whales, whales etc) but we do know that there is an abidance of wildlife in the Salish Sea while on our search. We headed east up Haro Strait in search of orca. Along the way, we stopped off at Kelp Reef to check out 2 bald eagles who assumed their dominant positions at the top of the reef marker. While looking quite impressive, a much larger and quite stealth flying object snuck up on the Ocean Magic from the stern (back of the boat) and it turns out the Canadian Armed Forces were out during family day. They gave passengers quite the thrill while arms waved from the helicopter to the boat. Upon closer inspection through my lens, there were three youths waving back at us. It was an unexpected and exciting encounter to be had by all!

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