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Happy Humpback Whales

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The humpback whales of Tonga are amazing! After nearly a month in Vava'u and now back home, I'm still catching up... This was the best trip I've ever done and this was a *bumper crop* year for humpback calves around the Vava'u Group of Islands, so we saw lots and lots of whales. Now the weather this year was very challenging, but it was worth it!

 

Whale photography is every bit as challenging as I thought it would be, but, because I was able to spend 21 days on the water, I did get some interesting and endearing photographs. I'm still going through them, here are two posts I've done so far - and lots more to come. Oh, there are some interesting and uncommon humpback whale behavior photographs I can only post on my site - so it is worth the click... Best, Carol

 

Three Very Happy Humpback Whales

 

Meet A Little Humpback Whale Named Vanilla

 

A humpback whale mother watches her young calf diving, but there is a third whale lurking? What's up?

Whales_happy_4.jpg

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The humpback whales of Tonga are amazing! After nearly a month in Vava'u and now back home, I'm still catching up... This was the best trip I've ever done and this was a *bumper crop* year for humpback calves around the Vava'u Group of Islands, so we saw lots and lots of whales. Now the weather this year was very challenging, but it was worth it!

 

Perfect timing Carol! So inspiring. I started planning a trip to Tonga in January. I left my Home in Alaska on the 21st, and Anchorage on the 22nd ... I missed a flight in Seattle and after 5 days I am finally in Tonga! But can't get to Vava'u until Monday as there are no flights in Tonga on Sunday. My 2 day trip will end up being 6, if all goes well!

 

I am tired of Murphy and his Law, LOL! My newly rebuilt (by Nikon) lens failed yesterday, my transformer and surge protector blew tonight ... bla bla.

 

But, Monday AM when I get off the plan, I am off to swim with and photograph the humpies ... and it'll all be worth it!

 

Thanks for the inspiration ... and I can only hope to capture some special moments in the short time I am in the Kingdom of Tonga. Perhaps, in the future, I will plan for a longer stay as you did.

 

Really nice work!

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What amazing experiences Carol; this is now definitely on the list if ever I can actually take a month. I'll have to settle for a week in Silverbanks in Feb

I'm sure as Mike V and Dean B see the Happy Humpback' series, this thread will go downhill from there. ;)

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I have my wife convinced that size doesn't matter. I'm definatly not going to let her see these photos!

Mike

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Thanks everyone! The humpback whales were really, really special - although it is definitely the most challenging trip I've done! Still the reward is 100 fold! :nudi:

 

Absolutely stunning - that one of the mother watching the calf is my fav - really majestic.

 

Thanks, I love the mom/calf shots where it shows the intimate link between the two.

 

I have my wife convinced...

Mike

 

I take the 5th Mike - I *tried* to state this behavior in the most neutrally diplomatic and polite way possible - but, obviously this is territory where "Angels fear to tread".... :)

 

...this is now definitely on the list if ever I can actually take a month.

I'm sure as Mike V and Dean B see the Happy Humpback' series, this thread will go downhill from there. :)

 

OK, let's make a deal all - NO trivializing of the event here, OK? Hey, I was there and what ensued was obviously of paramount importance to the humpback whales involved... ;) Plus, in person it was extremely impressive... :)

 

Perfect timing Carol! So inspiring.... My 2 day trip will end up being 6, if all goes well!

I am tired of Murphy and his Law, LOL! I am off to swim with and photograph the humpies ... and it'll all be worth it!

 

Bob, I can only say when you see your first humpback whale underwater - it will all be worth it! I too started planning my trip to Tonga a year ago and I came across many stories like yours, as to travel, etc. Fortunately, at DEMA in 2006 I was told about the Tuesday, once a week - direct flight - from LA to Tonga, on Air New Zealand - from LAX - it only stops in Samoa (but the planes don't change) and you don't have to overnight on Tongatapu to catch the inter-island flight to Vava'u. I felt this gave me a much better chance against missing planes and lost luggage from connections. Luckily, my trip went without a hitch, I took that same flight to and fro. One thing is, I think you will have better weather than I did, plus the calves will still be around as there is a bumper crop this year!!! You will have a blast!

 

More to come. I also did some scuba diving there, which I really enjoyed also, Best, Carol

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Loftus, i am inspired by your muse.... ;)

 

Good stuff Carol, even if you had to listen to Paul's dodgy accent for that long. :) And speaking of long... well... people just have to click on the link :nudi:

 

One of these days i will get there

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The humpback whales of Tonga are amazing! ...

Whale photography is every bit as challenging as I thought it would be, but, because I was able to spend 21 days on the water, I did get some interesting and endearing photographs.

 

A humpback whale mother watches her young calf diving, but there is a third whale lurking? What's up?

Whales_happy_4.jpg

 

Carol,

What system were you using? This image is Fisheye, but some of your others appear not to be.

I am taking a Nikon D300, a 12-24, and a 10-17. For surface I will be using a 70-300 only as my 18-200 just quit.

 

Do you prefer a fish eye over rectilinear?

 

Thanks again.

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Carol,

What system were you using? This image is Fisheye, but some of your others appear not to be.

I am taking a Nikon D300, a 12-24, and a 10-17. For surface I will be using a 70-300 only as my 18-200 just quit.

Do you prefer a fish eye over rectilinear?

Thanks again.

 

In the beginning I was only going to take the Tokina 10-17 (I love that lens!!) on my d300 it is awesome. But, Tony Wu suggested I start with a lens "that has a less demanding perspective". So I bought Peter Rowlands' 12-24 and set it up just as he and Alex Mustard suggested w/ +3 diopter behind my Subal 8" FE dome w/ 40mm ex ring (they both use Subals too).

 

Most people that had d200 & d300, in fact everyone that had those cameras, except one (she used Nikon 16mm), used the 12-24 (with or without diopter). I think it depends on the diopter thing, the larger domes (larger than the Subal 8" dome) seemed to do the best w/o diopter. My corners were just fine with the 12-24 with +3 and 43mm (15 + 28) of Subal ex rings + Subal 8" FE dome.

 

That said I did not like shooting with the 12-24 very much at all. It served it's purpose though, as in the beginning I just wanted to get images of whales, but I sorely missed the amount of light and contrast you get with the Tokina 10-17 - not just from being close, but the lens itself lets in so much more light and it was rainy/cloudy a lot so I sorely needed more light! Remember I had 21 days on the water, so after the first 7 or so days I'd had it with the 12-24, as I just wasn't happy with the lens for reasons stated. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't great. For the entire 14 underwater days left of my trip, I put the Tokina 10-17 FE on and never took it off. Sure, I missed some shots of the whales where I could have zoomed with the 12-24 (case in point, behavior referenced above) but the shots I got where I had to zoom with the 12-24 were not that great anyway. So I just waited for opportunities and whales that were relaxed and the water was clear so I could use the Tokina 10-17. It paid off, I missed some shots for sure - but the quality of shots that I'm keeping improved greatly.

 

That said, I don't think you will have enough time to learn how to get close enough to whales with the Tokina 10-17? It takes some practice and listening to dive guides, whales can be surprisingly skittish for their size and everyone is very cognizant about not disturbing the whales. But, maybe your trip leader can advise you better than me? Is it Darren? Tony's advice was definitely to start out with the 12-24 for the first few days.

 

Good Luck!!! Carol

 

PS - all my whale images posted so far, here, Flickr or on my site, have been with the Tokina 10-17. Also, from a Canon perspective here is a post by Tony Wu on what he uses mostly. I consider his humpback whale images to be among the best quality I've seen and one thing is, I do think his Pro One dome does make a difference with the demanding lighting aspects of humpback whale photography.

Equipment Note - Camera Housings [TonyWuBlog.com]

 

PPS - thanks all others for your comments! I guess you could say I had a *whale* of a time!!! (Sorry, I couldn't resist...) ;)

Edited by seagrant

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As I've said before -fantastic, fantastic, fantastic! This sounds like the trip of a lifetime. I'm really enjoying looking at all your images. Keep on postng.

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Thanks for sharing Carol - what an experience!

 

Cheers

James

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Hey Carol,

 

Great pics and story, I became a club member yesterday! A singer was having quite a time

 

Hope to see you down here again soon

 

Karen

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Carol I'm very envious of your adventure and just fascinated by your captures. I can only image how difficult whale photography must be, but you've made it look easy!

If there was ever a trip of a lifetime, this looks to be the one. Thanks for sharing the adventure and for giving us a glimpse of these spectacular cetaceans! Robyn

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Great pics and story, I became a club member yesterday! A singer was having quite a time

Karen

 

Ah, yes Karen, you are indeed a much-deserving & worthy addition to the *club* as you say.... :(

Wow..., singing during the event - what a concept? :) I guess it goes under the heading of *why not?*

I'm trying to ID the calf that witnessed all this & getting more views together - maybe you can help? I'll send you some.

 

Thanks everyone else for the feedback - I'm buried in humpback pics and trying to get another post or two together, while attempting to ID a few of the calves and adjusting to life here in Florida without seeing whales everyday :(

 

Certainly more to come,

Best, Carol

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*Update*

 

Little calf in this trio has been IDed as a young female and this calf will soon be added to Tony Wu's Summary of Humpback Whale Calves in Tonga - 2009. Link below:

 

Tony Wu's Post & Link to PDF of Humpback Whale Calves 2009: Summary of Humpback Whale Calves

 

Plus, I've done a new post on the subject:

 

Humpback Whale Calf IDs

 

post includes interesting data, including a photo of the left pectoral fin of the mother, that has a cookie cutter shark hole clear through - right at the tip. This is an unusual ID feature, but it will show up in all subsequent, even topside, photos of the mother's left pectoral. Cookie cutter shark bites are common on humpbacks (too bad!) but, they don't usually cut clear through.

 

Tony says he is adding more photos of calves to his ID summary and I'll see if I have any new ones! Count is up to 29 definite calf IDs at the moment I think.

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