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Tonga Humpback Whales


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#1 NWDiver

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 03:32 PM

Just a couple from the first round of editing.  Sorry for links can't figure out the right URL from flickr

 

 

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  • Whalebaby1web.jpg
  • Whaleclosepass.jpg
  • whalemomcalf.jpg


#2 davephdv

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 03:56 PM

Nice
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#3 NWDiver

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 01:59 PM

Thanks, a couple more.

 

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  • whalecalf6.jpg
  • whale7.jpg
  • Whalecalf4.jpg
  • whalecalf5.jpg


#4 davephdv

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 06:52 PM

Very nice, all done free diving? What is the time of year to go?
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#5 MikeVeitch

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 07:50 PM

wow, great shots!


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#6 NWDiver

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 06:45 AM

Thanks, we just got back last week.  Season runs, roughly, July - Oct.  It is all snorkeling and it is their winter.  The first 3-4 days were "rough" to the point people were getting seasick but then the last three days were calm and hot.   Technically you are not supposed to "Duck Dive" or freedive.   Our carrier was very strict, a story for another time.We had some excellent calf encounters with two of them coming up close enough you could touch them, but don't do that! The calf shots were taken at 24mm so they got CLOSE, it was awesome.  

 

Calf shot is not cropped and end of trip when the weather calmed down and sun was out.  The other was at the start, rough, lower viz, raining, and is Photoshopped to the  max of my meager abilities.   

 

 

 

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  • Whalecalfclose.jpg
  • whaletrio.jpg


#7 RickM

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Posted 05 October 2016 - 11:57 AM

Very nice! Must have been a thrill being that close!



#8 frenzyfinder

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Posted 14 October 2016 - 11:55 AM

Very humbling shots!



#9 NWDiver

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Posted 16 October 2016 - 07:06 AM

It is amazing to be in the water with them and see that they are reacting to your presence.  Even when you don't see them....

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#10 jdaley

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 06:34 AM

What a great encounter and some really nice images.  What camera rig did you use for these?


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#11 NWDiver

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 11:42 AM

For years now I have been shooting the Sony RX100 series underwater.  http://aquabluedream...al-de-evolution  With rumors of the new RX100V out there I picked up the RX100iV on Ebay.  It is housed in a Nauticam housing.  At first I mounted the Nauticam  WWL-1 on it, but due to conservative/very safe/very "respectful" way our carrier conducted the in water moments I left the WWL-1 on the boat and just shot it as is.  I have found for 90% of the shooting I do the RX100 series it work great.  Sure, when it comes to Super Macro and Natural Light wide angle shots interchangeable lens with big sensors have the advantage.  These shots were adjusted in Photoshop Raw to the max of my basic editing skills but came out ok imho.  


Edited by NWDiver, 17 October 2016 - 11:44 AM.


#12 jdiver

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 12:59 PM

Amazing pics!  Definately on my bucket list.  Its a shame you were not allowed to use the WWL-1.  How do you like the rx100iv vs the rx100ii?



#13 NWDiver

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Posted 18 October 2016 - 04:15 PM

Still playing with the RX100IV.  Will say the autofocus is quite good.  We had some rough days and you were stuck floating/bouncing on the surface, carrier was strict about duck dives.  So I was just hanging the camera below me and shooting away.  Very few shots out of focus.  



#14 NWDiver

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Posted 23 October 2016 - 12:30 PM

For what it is worth the gallery is up at the website: http://aquabluedream...a/whaledepart1/



#15 snorkeling bliss

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Posted 28 December 2016 - 02:40 PM

For what it is worth the gallery is up at the website: http://aquabluedream...a/whaledepart1/

Such beautiful, inspiring whale images! I definitely have Tonga at the top of my list of places I hope to visit someday. I can’t believe how close you were able to get to the whales. Seems like an experience like that would have to be one of the top experiences of a lifetime.

You mention shooting with the Sony RX100 series. I recently bought a Sony RX100 ii because of the great features and the fact that people have been able to get great underwater photos with it. And now that I’ve had a chance to play with it (only on land so far, I haven’t had a chance to play with it underwater yet, but I do have a trip coming up), I have some questions about using the white balance. In the past, I’ve shot with a Panasonic Lumix and a Canon Powershot S95, and both of these cameras had ‘Underwater’ as a possible setting for the white balance. It turns out that the Sony RX100 ii doesn’t have an ‘Underwater’ option for the white balance.

How you are handling the white balance? For your whale pictures, are you using the Auto White Balance? I only plan to snorkel (I’m not a diver and I don’t use strobes), and it seems that the conditions for your whale pictures would be similar to my own shooting conditions. I know that you can set the color temperature to 9900K. But maybe the Auto White Balance is sufficient at such shallow depths. What are you doing?

Thanks!



#16 NWDiver

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 07:31 AM

Typically I set the WB to Cloudy. I like to have a consistant WB rather than have it "jump around" in Auto.  Especially in a situation where everything was going to be very constant in color and contrast.  Mainly do this because, like most here, I shoot in RAW and run everything through Photoshop.  As mentioned most of these shots where adjusted to the max of my beginner skills.  

 

Here is an article written by a duo from Travel and Leisure that were in our group.  They were great and really made it a fun trip.  Sean was shooting a full frame Canon, till it flooded, in the rinse bucket, where the operation wanted you to keep your camera, in 3ft of chop.....

 

http://www.traveland...s-south-pacific


Edited by NWDiver, 30 December 2016 - 07:32 AM.


#17 snorkeling bliss

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 01:15 PM

Typically I set the WB to Cloudy. I like to have a consistant WB rather than have it "jump around" in Auto.  Especially in a situation where everything was going to be very constant in color and contrast.  Mainly do this because, like most here, I shoot in RAW and run everything through Photoshop.  As mentioned most of these shots where adjusted to the max of my beginner skills.  

Thanks for the info! I never would have thought to set it to Cloudy. I will give that a try. It’s good to hear what others are doing. I had a bit of a panic when I realized recently that the Sony RX100 ii doesn’t have the option for an ‘Underwater’ white balance since I had become accustomed to using that. I do shoot in RAW, and I use either LightRoom or PhotoShop Elements for processing.

Thank you for the link. I am aware of Whale Swim, and I get their email newsletter. But I didn’t realize until reading the article that you linked to that they have expanded to Sri Lanka! That’s exciting.

I definitely have whales on the brain. I’m going to the Sea of Cortez in Baja in March to do some whale watching.

Your whale shots are awesome (and you have a wonderful website as well), and I know I’m going to have to do the trip to Tonga for the complete experience.
 



#18 snorkeling bliss

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 05:27 AM

I wonder if you would be willing to share your experience with WhaleSwim?

A friend of mine said that one time when she was on their whale tour, the owner Rae told them that they couldn’t take their cameras into the water because she wanted people to just “experience” the whales.

DId this happen on your tour? Do you recommend them?
 



#19 NWDiver

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 07:07 AM

People on this board are smart and as I review this thread I think you all can read between the lines.  As someone that has always been self employed I know how hard it is to run a business.  I only want the best for all who take on this challenge.  In addition when dealing with WhaleSwim I made it very clear we were very avid amateur photographers, with fairly large rigs and asked where they comfortable with that?  They said yes, they dealt with photographers all the time.  We have been to Tonga before, going out with Tony Wu.  We had a great time and of course Tony "gets" photogs.  Tony can be a little hard to get a hold of but stick with it.   You are more on your own on getting to Tonga.  Once their everything went great and Tony is super knowledgeable about the whales and working with them.  He was booked up so we went with WhaleSwim this round.  

 

WhaleSwim is a well organized company.  Their communication while planning the trip was excellent and we found them very helpful.  The on the water organization, boats and crew are very good, the crew was fantastic.  In addition we really enjoyed the places they arranged for us to stay at, especially Mandala Beach Resort (SP?).  I think WhaleSwim is great for those who want to get in the water with whales and not stress about arranging things for themselves.  Perfect for those who may not be the strongest of swimmers or even people with kids.

 

Tonga has very strict rules on how to interact with the whales, which is GOOD!  To their credit WhaleSwim stick to these rules, and in my imho maybe goes a step beyond.  This is hard to argue against.  For example one rule is no free diving to the whales.  On one rotation in the water WhaleSwim actually "Pulled" me out of the water because I left the surface while trying to avoid getting kicked in the face by some of my fellow "dive buddies".  In general all I wanted to do was drop down 3-4 feet to get out of the chop but that was not allowed.  

 

What WhaleSwim wants you to do is get to a spot and link arms so you stay in a tight group.  This is very difficult if you have a camera and often dealing with surface chop and swells.  Not very safe for the person next to you when you have a large metal box in your hand.  When I brought this up and said I would stay close but not link arms there was a lot of consternation but finally agreed to.  I was the "trouble child" on this trip.  Anytime I got more than 2meters from the group it was brought to my attention when we got on the boat.  Without a doubt I lost shots when the group could not keep up with a whale.  

 

On the boat there was just one rinse bucket for masks, snorkels and cameras.  They wanted us to let our rigs float in that bucket, in 2-4 foot seas.  When I said I would prefer to just store them under our seat I was told it would be a safety problem.   Eventually we were provided a tote to store them in.  The pro shooter for Travel and Leisure followed the rules and his dome was bashed up and his housing flooded, in the rinse bucket, on day 3.  I do believe they could easily improve this aspect of their operation and get in line with what almost every other live-aboard does.  Last pet peeve for all dive operations is guides with cameras, drives me crazy.  Here the guides, including the owner, were packing GoPros, point and shoots.  Of course they were leading the group, they don't want you to stray away, so I have a ton of shots of their outstretched arms, camera in hand. 

 

Sorry for the long post.  WhaleSwim is an excellent choice for 90% of those out there.  But maybe not for the most avid, want to bend the rules a little, photographer types.  



#20 snorkeling bliss

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 07:50 AM

Thank you so much for taking the time to give all this information. It is very much appreciated. And thank you for the Tony Wu recommendation! I’m looking forward to having an adventure in Tonga in the next year or so -- can't wait!