First, a brief programming notice... It's been mildly hectic around here. 'Hectic', in a great way.
If you've been keeping up with the blog posts, you may have realized that I've been writing/posting nearly every week day.
In order to keep up with my other photographic projects, I'm going to be slightly decreasing the posts - but just to every other day: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (barring crazy schedule changes).
You might still find the odd post pop up on other days - you just never know when the creative spirit might move me:)
I've also had a few website programming issues, so I do apologize if some of you experienced any difficulties over the past several days. I'm working on some new features to the website that are proving more challenging that I originally anticipated.
And now, back to your regularly scheduling programming.
We all have shots that we wish we would have taken...
"Which way do I point my camera?!"
Captain Mark, our incredible boat captain, turned, smirked and nodded. "Dave... you're the photographer. I've got to figure out which way to point the boat!"
At that moment, there were approximately 15-20 North Pacific humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) surrounding our boat. I use approximately, because they were moving about so quickly - lunging, surfacing, blowing, diving, and resurfacing in different locations every few seconds.
As far as we could tell, the ocean currents had brought together a large mass of food. Whales had converged on this area, and were feeding. In massive numbers.
I have spent a significant time in the Kenai Fjords. But prior to this trip, I had never seen more than 3 or 4 whales at any one location.
Captain Mark voiced a similar sentiment. In 20 years of plying the waters of Kenai Fjords National Park (most of which has been spent at the helm of these long-range, full day cruises), he had never seen so many humpbacks at one location.
This was definitely not normal.
"This is a National Geographic-type moment!" he exclaimed from the pilothouse.
Mark is a typically reserved guy. He talks with a measured tone. Calculated. Deliberate.
Even his excitement is typically moderated. But even in his reserved manner, his passion for this marine world and rugged landscape is extremely evident.
Calculation and deliberateness are two traits you want in a boat captain. Passion... that's what you wish for in a guide.
Mark, along with his fellow Kenai Fjords professionals, has those traits in spades.
I was standing on the port side of the pilot house outer deck, snapping off random, poorly thought out, photographs of whales going about their feeding frenzy. I glimpsed down, past a Kenai Fjords Tour deckhand who stood at the stairwell below me, and overboard. I was hoping for a 'close encounter', something to put the size of these 40-ton mammals into perspective.
A dark jellyfish pulsated into view, maybe ten feet below the surface.
Only, it wasn't a jellyfish. I watched, confused as it winked at me, then turned on it's side and began to fade as it descended. As I widened my gaze, I noticed a much larger profiled silhouette tracking the same line of the mis-identified jelly. The boat may have wobbled a bit - I can't be sure.
It was a whale. Passing directly under our boat, it had turned on its side and gazed up at me.
I cocked my head a fraction, trying to find the sweet spot with my polarized sun-glasses. The distinct form of a whale was coming back into shape, and it was approaching the surface - not 20 yards from our boat.
"He's coming up." I told the other passengers, and pointed.
The whale spent just a few seconds on the surface, then dove. The last section of its body to disappear below was the 15 foot wide tail.
After we spent a good amount of time (although, not enough time...) with this large group of whales, the captain pointed the boat back in the direction of Seward, and we motored back to port.
The whales, however, apparently were not willing to let us go just yet.
As we pulled away from the Chiswell Islands, several of the passengers looked back. They suddenly raised their hands in unison and pointed. I turned to see a huge splash in the frothy wake of our boat, roughly 50 yards to the stern. An adult female humpback and her child had breached side by side.The captain saw the passenger's reactions, and immediately turned the boat, hard to starboard. (That's to the right, you landlubbers... See? This is educational too...). He repositioned the ship, shut the engines off, and we waited.
For the next 20 minutes, we watched the young whale repeatedly breach, dozens of times. I was able to shoot high-speed bursts of 19 of those breaches. This is just 1 of the 203 frames from that incredible encounter.
I do wish I was able to get a photograph of that whale that passed below our vessel.
But the image in my head, that of a shadowy behemoth looking up at me from the deep, is enough.
I call this one 'Rise'. I hope you enjoy viewing it, almost as much as I did witnessing it:)
I am setting the opening Rendition Print (#1) at 24"x36″. (read about our completely unique ‘Rendition’ prints in this blog post)
Open Editions prints are also available in 12″x18″, 16″x24″, and 20″x30″ sizes.
If you are a collector, and would like to own the very first Rendition Print of this image, please contact us at 907-315-0191. Likewise, if you would like to own an Open Edition print, we would love to help you.