Tag Archives: Humpback Whales

Future Landscapes VII: Flight

Pelican Flight

Pelican Flight

This image is a composite of two photographs. The background was taken inland from Merimbula, during a day of preventative back-burning. Dense smoke clouds emerged from many locations in the forest (part of the Southeast Forests National Park) and wafted over the treetops and nearby rural properties. There was a strong smell of smoky eucalyptus, and the atmosphere was lit with a glowing golden-brown haze. The pelican was photographed several hundred kilometres away (and several months earlier) in sunset light at Marlo in Gippsland. I processed both images with extra-warm white balance (about 6500oK), and applied some graininess to both images to accentuate the gritty sepia tonings.

I was thinking at the time of the impact of human intervention into the landscape, and the drastic changes that this has brought to the life of birds and animals of the region. I imagined the pelican fleeing the terror of the fire, and looking (accusingly?) out of the frame at the viewer. The same concept motivated the Echidna flight and Humpback flight images.

Echidna Flight

Echidna Flight

The background image depicts the Princes Highway near Merimbula, at the junction with the Yellow Pinch Road. It was taken in an autumn mid-afternoon, during burning-off operations in the adjacent forest. The light through the trees was filtered by the smoke, which also produced a hazy coppery light, almost (but not quite) like the warm light of sunset. The echidna was photographed a little before dawn (the following day), at Haycock Point in the Ben Boyd National Park, south of Pambula. Uncharacteristically for echidnas, he (or she?) seemed relatively unperturbed by my presence, and posed happily for some photographs before ambling away.

Like the Pelican flight image, this composite image was inspired by my thoughts of ‘wildlife’ fleeing from human disruption of their habitat. The massive size of this ‘mega-fauna monotreme’ is intended to suggest that it not just an individual creature, but is somehow representative of the species, or of native creatures in general.

Humpback Flight

Humpback Flight

A three-image composite. One of them – the background of ocean and sky – is itself based on another five separate images, combined as a high-dynamic range (HDR) image to give the scene a more dramatic, graphic sort of look. This was taken in early morning light in the Ben Boyd National Park. The ‘road’ is actually a wharf, extracted from a picture of the Edrom Point naval facility on Twofold Bay. Although humpback whales are seasonally prolific along the far south coast of NSW, I was in the region during autumn, when they are not around. So the whale in this image is one that I photographed in June 2012 in King George Sound, near Albany, Western Australia.

There can be few sights in nature as powerfully exhilarating as the sight of a breaching whale. After the near-extinction of many whale species during the 19th and 20th century commercial whaling, whale numbers are strongly recovering in the region. Twofold Bay was the site of a number of whaling stations, which operated until the last one (Davidson’s) ceased in 1929. Now the boats head out from Snug Cove at Eden for the purpose of watching (rather than catching) whales.

As with the other ‘Flight’ images (Echidna flight, Pelican flight) I wanted to allude to the disruption of habitat by human activity. In this instance the whale’s exultant launch into the air looks to be heading for a hard landing.

Albany Humpback Whales

During our recent travels in Western Australia there was a heap of great and varied photographic opportunities. (I hope to write a post about some more of them soon …) But one of the real highlights for us was during our time in Albany on the south coast of the state, where you look out into the Southern Ocean and there’s no land between the shore and Antarctica.

We took a boat out from the port in Princess Royal Harbour into King George Sound to look for whales, which are now in their seasonal migration from the northwest coast of Australia en route to Antarctic waters for the summer. The weather was a bit ‘iffy’, with some heavy rain, winds and some swell as we set out, but it cleared gradually during the course of our journey out across King George Sound past Michaelmas and Breaksea Islands.

And then we saw the whales. They were jumping (‘breaching’) on all sides of us, probably eight to ten of them. It was hard catch them on the camera, as you couldn’t tell where the next one was going to launch from. I was using the 70-200mm f2.8L lens at ISO 400, f4 and shooting fast (1/3200 second) to freeze them in the air, and counteract the occasional lurching of the boat in the swell. I  also braced myself standing between two stainless steel railings on the boat to keep my balance!

Albany Humpback whale breachingAlbany Humpback whale breachingAlbany Humpback whale breachingAlbany Humpback whale breachingAlbany Humpback whale breachingAlbany Humpback whale breaching

John Woodbury owns the catamaran that we were on, and he takes people out pretty much every day to look for whales during the ‘season’. He reckoned that he’d never seen such a sustained spell of them jumping like that, and this was the first time that he’d had to turn back for port with them still putting on a show.

The next day I gave John copies of some of the photos, which he liked enough to pass them on to a bloke at the local paper, the Albany Advertiser. He in turn he contacted me to ask permission to reproduce them in the paper. I agreed to supply them without charge on condition that I got full attribution and the article included a link to my web site. Always get attribution! The newspaper article is up on their web site at this link.

You can see the full set of whale photos, also including some images of Fur Seals, on the Jokar website in this folder.