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Swimming With Whales


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#1 MandyH

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 04:50 PM

My mother and I are starting to plan our first real vacation. As soon as we save up the cash we'll be heading to the Dominican Republic to swim with the Humpback Whales on their breeding / calving grounds. We watch these same whales while they're up here on the feeding grounds during the spring, summer, and fall. If you're interested, you can see some of our photos on my website www.whalesonfilm.com.

Anyway, I currently use a Canon Xti (old equipment I know) and my mother currently uses a Canon Xsi. We both want to get underwater housings for our cameras so we can get some decent shots. We're not looking for Nat Geo quality although that WOULD be nice! :swimmingfish:

The trip itself is going to cost us approx $5,000 when all's said and done so whatever camera equipment we purchase has to be reasonably priced. We're not looking to spend another $1,000 on top of what it's already going to cost. We do realize though that you get what you pay for so the lesser priced housings may not be that great function wise or image quality wise. Do any of you have any suggestions?

Also, since this will be our first time in shooting the water what settings would you recommend? I normally shoot in Av mode on our whale watches and my mother still uses sports mode. I'm trying to teach her, but at the same time I'm still learning! :)

#2 elbuzo

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 07:40 PM

I just put on sale my Aquatica housing for the Nikon D300 here in DR , but i think that will be sold by the end of this whale season and also it's priced higher than you had budgeted . Anyhow pm if you are interested .

Regarding u/w whale's photography at the Silver Banks , it can be tricky because the white pectoral fins against the black body of the whales tends to confuse the automatic exposure of the camera also since you will be snorkeling and most of the time water' surface is a little choppy , you will need to counteract the movement with a shutter speed of at least 1/200th so you can start with setting your camera on shutter priority ( not sure how it Canon called that mode ) .

Anymore questions let me know

JA

#3 eyu

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 05:01 PM

I would suggest that taking pics of whales you will need a wide lens (10-17 mm or 12-24 mm), shutter speeds at least 320th or faster and a lot of luck. The luck is to be in a good position so you don't just get distant tail shots. These animals look like they are moving slowly, but you can't keep up with them.

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#4 MandyH

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 06:09 PM

Thanks for the advice! I was thinking of getting a fisheye lens soon so I think that's potentially going to be what I'll be using on my trip for the underwater stuff. The trip I'm looking into going in tries to find whales who are more or less relaxing and being calm to go swimming with so I'm HOPING we'll get lucky and will find some nice co-operative whales that'll be easy to keep up with.

#5 WanderingBob

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 04:29 PM

Thanks for the advice! I was thinking of getting a fisheye lens soon so I think that's potentially going to be what I'll be using on my trip for the underwater stuff. The trip I'm looking into going in tries to find whales who are more or less relaxing and being calm to go swimming with so I'm HOPING we'll get lucky and will find some nice co-operative whales that'll be easy to keep up with.


I would not recommend the 10-17mm (or any fish eye) for whales or other large critters. It'll give them a "bulbous" appearance. I'd go with the 10 0r 12-24mm. Take a look at photos of whales and large sharks.
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#6 SaveOurSeas

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 06:37 PM

Having swum with and photographed humpbacks in Tonga, I can highly recommend the 10-17mm fisheye lens! I was with another photographer who had a 12-24mm Nikon rectilinear lens, and IMO it wasn't wide enough when the whales got close. I would think the 10-24 Nikon or 10-20mm Canon would have produced similar results to his.

These shots of mine were with the 10-17 fisheye set at ard 15mm:
http://underwater.co...e.php/id/10447/
http://ngm.nationalg...week-10/#/18224
http://www.divephoto...tt-s-gallery-1/

Hope you have a great trip!

Cheers,

SOS

Edited by SaveOurSeas, 08 March 2012 - 07:01 PM.


#7 SaveOurSeas

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 06:54 PM

Re: settings - I agree with Elbuzo and Eyu. I'd suggest using shutter priority (somewhere ard 1/200th or a bit more or less, depending on available lighting) and then dial down your exposure compensation to tame the potential blowout/overexposure from white parts on the whales' bodies (belly, pec fins, etc). Each camera & lens combination will be a little different. I think I had mine set ard -2.7 with a D90 & Tokina 10-17. YMMV.

:)

#8 MandyH

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 02:50 PM

Thanks for the feedback everyone! And, thanks to you SOS for posting your shots! Man I can not wait to get into the water with them for the first time. I think my first time in, I'll go without my camera just to experience it.

I'm leaning more towards getting an underwater camera now instead of a fisheye lens for my Canon. I don't know what I was looking at when I first started looking at the fisheye lenses, but the one I saw was in the $300 range which was very doable! Now that I've started to look again they're mostly over $1,000 which is more than I'm looking to spend.

I did find a promising underwater camera (which I just started looking into). It's the Sealife DC1400. Anyone have any experience with this camera? The sample photos and videos I've seen look pretty promising.

It looks like our trip won't be until 2014 because we're trying to get a group together and some of our group members need extra time to save up. So, I still have plenty of time to try to figure things out and get all the gear I need.

#9 eyu

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 04:22 PM

I think your Canon with a fisheye and housing would be far superior than the Sealife point and shoot for whale photos.
For two reasons, one the shutter lag with the point and shoot, and two the point and shoot is simply not wide enough at 26 mm to get a good whale photo.

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#10 MandyH

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 04:40 PM

Thanks, as I said I just started looking at that camera so I hadn't read all about it. I guess I'll keep searching. I would love to get a fish eye lens and housing for my camera, but I can't spend $2,000+ on it. I think going with a point and shoot may be my only option.

#11 pauldrewski

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 11:47 PM

Thanks, as I said I just started looking at that camera so I hadn't read all about it. I guess I'll keep searching. I would love to get a fish eye lens and housing for my camera, but I can't spend $2,000+ on it. I think going with a point and shoot may be my only option.

There are lots of good cameras out there for that money, as to the trip I have found that for whale watching and trips if you really want photos or video the person and group to deal with is Conscious Breath Adventures, they will meet all expectations