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whale watching Whale watching can be the most exhilarating way to spend a day of vacation, or a sunburn-inducing time-suck that’s more aggravating than fulfilling.

Don’t blame the whales, of course. They’re not there to entertain you.

I’ve done more than my fair share of whale watching, and perhaps even a share for you as well. My wife is a marine-biologist-turned-travel-agent-turned-baker, so when we’re in a location that offers whale watching, we’re usually quick to jump onboard the nearest boat, from the Jersey Shore (yep, there are humpbacks out there) to Maui (where it’s now peak season for fluke-peeping).

So when I came across an item on the travel Web site Jaunted purporting to offer “Five Tips for Getting the Most from Going Whale Watching,” I had to take a gander. Suck down some Dramamine? Fine. Lower your expectations? Sure. Bring binoculars? Whatever.

All good tips, really. But here’s one admonition it didn’t include: Leave your camera at home. Okay, you can bring it with you, but don’t plan on using it. I know every budding photographer wants to capture Moby Dick breaching the briny surf, but you know what? You may miss the Big Moment.

I learned this the hard way. Ten years ago on the Oregon coast, my wife and I were whale watching in a tiny boat that was being buffeted by high seas. Our guide, a young guy who looked suspiciously like the Gorton’s Fisherman, expertly navigated out to what he said were prime whale haunts, then told us we we wouldn’t go in until we saw one. As the sea threw us around the boat, I clutched my camera, waiting for the Big Moment. Finally, the captain told us to look to the north, and I grabbed my camera, started to hold it up to my eyes … and completely missed the beast surfacing a few yards away. I’ll never forget what the kid said to me: “Put the camera away.”

Since then, we’ve probably been whale watching a dozen times, and each time I’ve put the camera away. In Maui, there were so many Big Moments (read: whales flopping out of the water all around us) that I wished, for a second, I’d brought my Nikon. So I asked another passenger if he could e-mail me some of his best shots.

Sure enough, a week later he sent me 10 photos, all of them either blurry or mere fragments of the actual event. Heck, I could have done that. …

– written by John Deiner

3 Responses to “It’s No Fluke: One Unexpected Tip for Whale Watching”

  1. Pemberton says:

    My family took us whale watching when I was a kid, and my brother snapped this perfect shot of a blue whale emerging from the ocean off the coast of Vancouver, which my parents had enlarged and framed upon our return. I have no idea how he did it, but I do remember we were more interested in drinking root beer and goofing off on the boat than looking for whales. If you do bring a camera, maybe it helps to be a 10-year-old kid with no photography experience and little interest in whales.

  2. Jolly8 says:

    I have taken several whale watching tours during cruises to AK & the Caribbean. The best way to get the pix you want is to take them with the movie mode of your camera. You may then select the best frame to pull out of the sequence and get that printed. One other way is to use the multi-sequence series shot exposure & if you are lucky, you’ll catch a good shot. No matter what you do, you will have many frames to throw out, Save only the 2 or 3 best ones to display. I shall never forget one of the pod rising up close to our boat as it stared at us during feeding time. We almost expected a kiss! That shot worked well!

  3. I know that “not bringing a camera” is rather an ironic advice, but hey, I think I have to agree! I can’t imagine how many times did I really miss the show because I was the photographer of the event. And when we talk about waiting for a whale to come out; boy, this is more than a thing to miss.

    Eric

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