Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beauty in the breach

April, 2010
Seems I can't help myself. I have now literally photographed thousands of breaching whales all over the world, but still I am drawn to the power and grace of an animal of this size leaping clear of the surface of the ocean.
Capturing that exact millisecond with a camera is still as exciting for me as it was the first time I did it, so many years ago...
When the humpback whale breaching is only a few days old (like this newborn calf - note the gray coloration) it is that much better...
Here a slightly older calf is perfecting its style!
Sometimes it just seems like adult whales are showing off (and of course they are). Even though this adult male is breaching for the benefit of other whales in the immediate area, we humans often see the effort as being for our own personal enjoyment.
But of course these are wild animals going about their daily lives not for our benefit, but to pass on their own genes to future generations.
Not to say that it doesn't absolutely get your heart pumping when it happens so close to the ship you are watching from.

To see more of my photography please visit my website at www.wildlifeimages.net

Humpback mother and calf reunion

April, 2010
Now this is a really fun series of images of a mother and newborn calf in the AuAu Channel. The calf is getting curious about our little boat and comes closer to investigate. Mom gives a short burst of bubbles from her blowhole as a signal to the calf.
The calf immediately turns from us and heads towards mom...
Almost as if to confirm obedience, the calf swims right to and then through the bubbles.
And off they go together. Was the calf playing in moms bubble bath for fun, or was the air blast a signal to come to mom's side RIGHT NOW. We can only guess...
Here a mother, calf, and male escort swimming in the clear waters off Maui, Hawaii.
This pair will soon leave the relatively protected waters of Hawaii to head for Alaska and the feeding grounds there. Travel well my friends! Me ke aloha.

Spinner dolphins and remoras

April, 2010
Here on Maui spinner dolphins sometimes will absolutely go off in their efforts to leap high out of the water, spinning as they go. There have been many theories over the years as to just why these small dolphins spin when they leap, but here is evidence to support at least one theory:
This adult male has two remoras attached to his body, one on the throat area and the other on his left flank. Time and again this particular animal would leap high into the air, spinning violently, only to come down with a resonating thwack and huge splash!
The remoras themselves would change locations on the body of the dolphin, but try as he might he just couldn't shake them.
It must be incredibly irritating for a spinner dolphin to have these fish attached to their sensitive skin, and the effort to dislodge them is sometimes seems to be to no avail.
Incredible heights are obtained so as to maximize re-entry impact, but this male dolphin just couldn't shake these two remoras.
Finally (with the remoras still attached) this individual male, along with the entire pod, continued on its way from Lanai to Maui across the AuAu Channel.
An unexpected (but very welcome) visitor inspects out little inflatable boat in the waters between Lanai and Maui. It is not often I get to see a tiger shark here in such perfect conditions, let alone get to get a close up shot (This image is taken with a 14mm lens, so the shark is only a few feet from the boat)!

Baja above and below

April, 2010
Where the Sonoran desert meets the sea...Baja! The best of both worlds presents itself here, and the opportunities are plentiful both above and below the water.
Brown pelicans reflected in the calm waters of the Sea o Cortez.
Looking down on a curious striped marlin who kept pace with the ship for almost 45 minutes!
A curious California sea lion inspects Ralph Lee Hopkins and his dome port.
Only a sea lion can make a hard rock look like a soft pillow as it snoozes at Los Islotes.

To see more of my photography please visit www.wildlifeimages.net

Sunrise, Sunset

April, 2010
Sunrise in the Baja! What a glorious time to be up and working. Still water reflects the clouds as video chronicler Josh works his magic at Punta Colorado on Isla San Jose.
Jim gets low to try and capture the perfect angle just as the sun breaks the horizon...
And of course some of the best pics of the day come from the Aim-and-Create cameras...nice shot Deb!
Sunrise on a flat sea from the bow of the National Geographic Sea Bird.
A brown pelican casting its shadow in flight on the sandstone cliffs of Isla San Jose.
The golden hour in the evening is of course another opportunity for amazing images. Here a smooth tail mobula is leaping from the water as the sun sets behind Las Gigantes.
Painting rock and cactus with hand held light can reward late night photographers.
Or just letting the sun paint the horizon orange at civil twilight as the National Geographic Sea Bird is at anchor at Elephant Rock cove on Isla Santa Catalina.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Whales and Dolphins in the desert?

April, 2010
You want whales and dolphins to photograph? You want calm water and amazing backdrops? Then there is simply no place like the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. This Bryde's whale is sub-surface feeding off the west side of Carmen Island in the Gulf of California. Notice that his eye is watching while he stretches open his gigantic mouth to scoop up euphausids from the sea.
He keeps circling around the National Geographic Sea Bird with mouth open, what a great look at the baleen plates hanging from the upper jaw!
How about this blue whale in the lower Sea of Cortez? This is the largest animal to ever live on our planet!
These are long-beaked common dolphins, although I would submit to you that there is nothing common about them...they should be called long-beaked SPECTACULAR dolphins!
When the water is so clear and calm you can actually watch the dolphins blow break into bubbles and streak down its back.
A group of these spectacular dolphins riding the bow of the National Geographic Sea Bird.
Perhaps the friendliest large whale in the world, this California gray whale calf is posing for National Geographic photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins.
The curiosity of these young gray whale calves allows for wonderful photographic opportunities, but begs the question of just who is watching whom?
At times these animals actually seek out human contact, rubbing their rostrums on the Zodiac or lifting their heads to be scratched.
And of course what is an excited young whale to do with all of that bottled up energy? BREACH!
Humpback whales also love the Baja, this adult male is breaching off the west side of Isla Magdalena on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula.
A group of killer whales makes an appearance in the Pacific Ocean as well, this male is tail-lobbing, slapping the water repeatedly to mark its position to the rest of the pod.
What a thrill to see and photograph killer whales is such clear water and great sea conditions.
This mother has a calf with a most unusual dorsal fin. It looks as if it has been chopped off, but has healed completely. It will be very easy to recognize this youngster in the future!
This adult botttlenose dolphin actually has a broken lower jaw on the left side. The tip of the mandible is sticking out at a 90 degree angle to the jaw line. It seems to have healed just fine, and apparently the animal is still able to feed like normal.
Power and grace summed up in a leaping bottlenose dolphin.
Eye to eye with a curious bottlenose dolphin surfacing just off the side of the ship.

To see more of my photography please visit my website at www.wildlifeimages.net