Friday, July 13, 2018

Experience Of A Lifetime


I just returned today from an 8-day chartered yacht trip in Alaska's Inside Passage. What a trip it was! This is the second year I have done this trip with a group of photographers, and it just keeps getting better and better.

We were lucky and found a group of humpback whales engaging in bubble net feeding behavior. This was something I had always wanted to witness, so this was a real thrill.

We watched and photographed this action for over 2 hours. The whales would locate a large school of herring, and then form a group underwater to corral the fish into a small circular "net" created by bubbles that the whales would blow. Once the fish were trapped in the net of bubbles, the whales would lunge upward out of the water as a group and devour large amounts of herring in each gulp.

We had hydrophones and could hear the whale calls underwater, and our guide identified the distinctive high pitched sound made right before the group would lunge upward to gulp the fish in large numbers.

Circling seagulls overhead helped us pinpoint the approximate location of each lunge.

Scientists believe that this behavior indicates a high level of intelligence, and sophisticated communication among groups of whales. It certainly was awe-inspiring and very exciting to witness and to photograph.

TECH SPECS
1/800 sec. at f/9, ISO 800.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It is often said that play is the greatest expression of intelligence, and whales and dolphins are among the most playful in the animal kingdom."  -- U.S Whales.com

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Always Surprises


Many times when I am traveling, I come across subjects that I never expected to see. This trip to Alaska is no different. I am here with two different photo groups for whale-watching and brown bear photography. We are not in this incredible place for flowers. And yet, with long sunny days, the flowers burst forth in profusion, and are healthy and large.

This gorgeous patch of columbine was growing in a cultivated bed near Juneau. And these blooms were huge!

So while I was hoping to see eagles swooping overhead, they did not. But these flowers filled the bill for a wonderful photographic opportunity. I shot these with the long telephoto lens (100-400mm) that was on the camera in anticipation of eagles. But it is relatively easy to get great flower images with a long lens, if you back up a bit so the lens will be able to focus on closer subjects. One advantage of shooting flowers with a telephoto lens is that the background goes nicely soft as long as you use a relatively large aperture.

This image has been optimized in Lightroom to bring out the one bloom that is sharp. Below is the Before RAW image, before cropping or optimization. Compare the After image above to the Before image here.
BEFORE
 Lightroom made quite a difference. In the After image above, I toned down the background and the entire right side of the image, and lightened the sharp bloom to make it stand it out more.

So the point of today's Blog is that no matter where you go, no matter what you expect to be shooting, always be open to other opportunities. You never know what wonderful images might happen.

TECH SPECS
1/1000 sec at f/6.3, ISO 400. Panasonic 100-400mm Leica f/4-6.3 lens set at 400mm on Panasonic G9 body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "One thing is for sure: no matter how organized we are, or how well we plan, we can always expect the unexpected."  --Brandon Jenner