The first time a person sees a 35 tonne Humpback Whale launch itself fully out of the water is a moment that is hard to describe in words. Excitement, awe, wonder, elation all come to mind and perhaps a little bit of intimidation! From July to October, in the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay, this is a daily event witnessed by hundreds of spectators and nearly everyone attempts to capture the moment to share with family and friends. From smartphones to professional DSLR cameras, all but a few people have a camera at hand and the ultimate whale breach photo is number one on the list.
The task can be a challenging one! Just where and when a whale will emerge in full flight is tricky to predict. Add to that a moving boat, technical camera equipment and the excitement of the moment and many good photos are missed. Luckily, there are a number of things all photographers can do to maximise their chances of success.
The experienced skippers and deck hands of Hervey Bay’s whale watching fleet are full of great information. Many of them have a finely tuned ability to read the whale’s behaviour and often predict the next move with an uncanny accuracy. Listening to their commentary can put you one step ahead when it comes to nailing the shot.
Preparation is key. Become familiar with your camera before the trip and be sure to know how to select a fast shutter speed and shoot on burst mode if possible. I like to use 1/1000th of a second particularly on a bright sunny day.
When holding your camera, support most of the weight with your left hand under the lens and learn to squeeze the shutter button smoothly. If you think a whale is about to breach, bring the camera nearly all of the way up, looking over the top of the lens until you spot the whale’s head coming out of the water.
This is it! Immediately lift your camera to your eye, zoom in and shoot. When you’ve nailed the shot, be sure to share it with your family and friends and spread the love of Hervey Bay’s famous Humpback Whales.