Whalewatching 2015: Part 6

5 May
Despite heavy weather, a young Humpback whale manages a few "pec-waves."

Despite heavy weather, a young Humpback whale manages a few “pec-waves.” (Click on image to see a larger version.)

21 February Cruise

Between adverse weather conditions and boat-scheduling changes, this was probably about the worst day possible for photographing whales! Due to last-minute cruise-boat changes, I was bumped to a smaller, less-stable mono-hull boat (Ocean Explorer).

Pacific Whale Foundation's M/V Ocean Explorer plowing through heavy seas off Papawai Point, Ma'alaea Bay, Maui.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s M/V Ocean Explorer plowing through heavy seas off Papawai Point, Ma’alaea Bay, Maui. (Click on image to view a larger version.)

Adverse sea-surface conditions made shooting the whales nearly impossible: heavy seas with high winds inside and outside the bay, and 4- to 6-foot swells with every wave whipped into a whitecap. Whenever I tried to pull a focus on a whale, the boat would list violently from port to starboard and back in near 45-degree arcs. Most shots lost the subject as I hit the shutter release; even in burst mode, shots were blurred to a greater or lesser degree. No DSLR technology can compensate for a violently unstable platform!

Nice shot of a young adult Humpback whale performing a "fluke slash", whereby the whale whips the lower third of its body (the "caudal peduncle") violently from side-to-side.

Nice shot of a young adult Humpback whale performing a “fluke slash”, whereby the whale whips the lower third of its body (the “caudal peduncle”) violently from side-to-side. Note the angle of the horizon! (Click on image to see a larger version.)

A blurry shot of a mature Humback's ventral flukes showing the distinctive coloration.

A blurry shot of a mature Humpback’s ventral flukes showing the distinctive coloration. (Click on image to see a larger version.)

I took 550 total shots, but kept just 52, only 32 of which actually had whales as subjects; the rest were scenery shots! I did manage to get a couple of good shots of a whale doing fluke-slaps and peduncle throws.

Nice shot of the youngster performing another peduncle throw.

Nice shot of the youngster performing another peduncle throw. (Click on image to see a larger view.)

Despite the poor shooting conditions, I enjoyed the boat ride: rough-weather cruising has always been a private thrill for me. A bad day on the water is always better than a week in the office!

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