As someone said before me – Mother Nature is amazing but fickle, tooooooo. The first week we were here was totally dry, with only one whale encounter in seven days.
Now we’re starting the second week – and it is only the second day – and every one of my four guests is in love with another Sperm whale – we are experiencing about a dozen encounters per day.
However, nothing is like seeing Scar in the water (see first image below) and Enigma, his pod member…(middle image). They both are about 10 meters (33 feet) long. Scar is easily recognized as he comes very close to the swimmers and requests to be petted. Enigma just hangs around and demands that we swim along with her. As long as we do, she’s happy, and she has stayed with the swimmers once for 20 minutes and another time for over 30 minutes.
Yes, we all have great expectations from Mother Nature – now we hope to see a socializing group of seven or more underwater looking into our cameras…
Keep your fins wet, and remember that I am planning to return with three more expeditions next year…
Here are some images. There are more on my Facebook album. Equipment? I use the Canon 1D Mark IV and the Canon 1Ds Mark III. Lenses used are all wide angle – from the latest lens, 8 – 15mm, and also 14mm, and 16 – 35mm. Underwater housing - Seacam.
There was a time when Blue whales were hunted almost to extinction. That changed in 1966 when protective laws were enacted to save the blues, the largest animal on earth. Now there’s a new development, and it’s a good one. A huge Blue whale colony has been discovered in Sri Lanka.
Last year I scouted Sri Lanka for the fifth time in order to set up diving and photography operations - my first exploration there was in 1982. I was amazed at what I saw. I have been waiting all this time for the moment of peace and freedom. I’m very glad to start my first Biganimals Blue whale photography expedition. I’m offering three departures to Sri Lanka in March and April, 2012. I’ve prepared a PDF for you with all the details. Click to download it.
Also, the new BigAnimals Expeditions Blue whale schedule for 2013 is in the making. March 20 – April 1, 2013, March 29 – April 8, 2013, and April 5 – 19, 2013. I accomodate only four guests per adventure – space is very limited. If you’re interested please email me at email@example.com to reserve your place on this amazing adventure.
I’m about to embark on an adventure to the Caribbean island of Dominica. I’ll be there with a few new guests and old friends to photograph what was once one of the world’s most hunted animals – the Sperm whale in Dominica. These whales have made an amazing comeback from near extinction. We’ve sold three departures with four guests to each team. I’ll be there until February 9th … and always pleased to be working with my camera with guests and friends among the Ocean Giants
island of Dominica. I’ll be there with some guests and old friends to photograph what was once one of the world’s most hunted animals – the Sperm whale. These whales have made an amazing comeback from near extinction. We’ve sold three departures with four guests to each team. I’ll be there until February 9th … and always pleased to be working with my camera with guests and friends among the Ocean Giants.
Another giant has left us. The International Union for Conservation of Nature said that the Western Black Rhino of Africa was officially extinct, and two other subspecies were close to the same fate. Amazing to consider also that a quarter of all mammals are at risk of extinction. But there is also a ray of light: the IUCN said that the Southern White Rhino and Przewalski’s Horse have been saved from extinction. Why? Successful conservation programs.
This is why I believe that the battle to save Big Animals from extinction begins with experiencing them first hand. You need to be in the presence of a rhino, a lion, a gorilla or a whale to fully comprehend its power, grace and magnificence. Conservation measures are the answer, as Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission said: “In the case of both the Western Black Rhino and the Northern White Rhino, the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented.” Getting people and governments to take those measures means they have to experience, appreciate and make an emotional connection to Big Animals. I’d like to offer you a way to do that, yourself, and have the experience of a lifetime.
Big 7 African Safari
Nobody ever said getting spectacular images of the world’s iconic animals was easy, but I want to offer you a way for your personal photos of lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, cape buffalo and mountain gorillas to be worthy of a spread in your favorite nature magazine. Come with me to Africa June 2 through 24, 2012 and I will be at your side to coach your camera work, show you how to work with various lenses and telling you about the best ways to shoot in natural light. On the expedition we’ll avoid the usual tourist destinations so you can get a sense of Africa at its most welcoming and magnificent. The grand finale is to strap on some scuba tanks and swim with Nile Crocodiles in the Okavango Delta. We’ll be in the Nxamaseri Lodge, a unique African experience on an island in the delta. We make the trip doing the best time to be in the water – June and July when the water is clear (visibility 15-20 feet) and cold (55-60 degrees F) which brings the crocs to the surface for great viewing and interaction.
There is hope for Big Animals. Sperm whales were among the world’s most hunted animals – almost driven to extinction. But how they have made the best comeback in the history of wildlife with almost as many now as there were a hundred years ago. Will you join me on our next adventure to Africa?
According to NBC News, a pair of 40-ton giants got dangerously close to a surfer in Santa Cruz, California. The US Coast Guard isn’t saying for sure, but there are many reports of more humpbacks coming closer to shore than ever. Some whale experts, like those at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, say this is something to worry about. They’re concerned about people getting hurt.
NBC quoted Kera Mathes of the Aquarium as saying “Being that close to an 80,000-pound whale when it’s coming up and looking for food isn’t safe,” she said. “When these surfers and kayakers are so close, it definitely poses a danger to the whale and those in the water.”
She’s right… but I believe it’s possible to get close to this remarkable animals, and get close safely.
They belong to the same family as the blue whale, fin whale, Bryde’s whale, sei whale and minke whale.
The females are bigger than the males: from 45-50 feet to the males’ 40-48.
Humpbacks feed on krill, small shrimp-like animals, and small fish and eat up to 1.5 tons of food a day.
Baleen plates, not teeth, trap their food to be swallowed.
Humpbacks are acrobatic, breeching their 40 tons completely out of the water.
They sing, and their songs are complex with each population singing its own unique song.
Their songs are not inborn – they learn them from each other.
The are capable or migrating the globe, from Antartica to the Pacific.
They breed, give birth and care for their newborn calves in the warm waters of Tonga.
If you want the best pictures of them, you’ll need a wide angle lens and will need to learn how to safely swim close to them.
I’ve got dozens of years’ experience photographing Humpback whales, and I know the way to get the best photograph is to treat them respectfully and free dive close. I’ve trained adventurers to do this over 10-day expeditions that I lead, and I have picked the tropical paradise of Tonga for this. Not only is it the very definition of an island paradise, but it is prime territory for the Humpbacks during their breeding period. As you free dive among them on this adventure, you’ll see mother and calf interacting and the bulls tail-slapping and breeching. Would you like to join me? My next Humpback whale adventure departs August 20, 2012.
Coming up right away next year is my adventure in the Carribean to see the largest carnivore in the world – the Sperm whale. There are only a few spaces left, so get in touch with me to reserve yours. Sperm whales were among the world’s most hunted animals – almost driven to extinction. But how they have made the best comeback in the history of wildlife with almost as many now as there were a hundred years ago. Sperm whales are the easiest whales to approach – they are curious and friendly as they socialize in pods of five to thirty. For this encounter, Big Animals Expeditions has teamed with Andrew Armour, known in the diving commmunity as the ‘whale whisperer.’ We will be on his boat, the Domnik. Download the PDF flyer now.
When I travel to the Galapagos Islands, or lead a Great White Shark expedition to Baja California in Mexico, or journey to Antarctica to see Leopard seals and other animals, I find that these places have a lot to teach me. They teach me not only as a photographer, but also as a human being.
Every time I suit up and jump in I rediscover a deep connection with nature. Personal encounters with large animals are life changing. The people I take on my trips tell me that all the time. Whether we’re diving in the Galapagos or walking in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton in Antarctica, there’s this amazing paradox that happens.
You get what one participant called “an unparalleled intimate experience” with an animal many times larger that you are.
I’m excited to talk about all this at Google headquarters in Mountain View. On October 5th, I’ll be leading an invitation-only audience at Google through images and stories of personal encounters with awe-inspiring blue whales, cage-free encounters with Great White sharks, close-up experiences with polar bears, Leopard seals, anacondas and more. I am passionate about image-making, but I think there’s even more going on when we document the activities of these big animals. I love the work and the adventure, and it’s fun, but I also think it’s important – a reaffirmation of our deep connection with nature. At my Google talk, I’m going to highlight the place wildlife has in our culture.
We co-exist on Earth with amazing creatures. We may think of ourselves often as “the boss,” but when you experience the presence of a Great White shark close up, you start thinking other things. It’s more likely that we’re not “the boss,” but something like stewards of the planet. And first things first, we have to understand the animals we share the planet with.
One of the clients I’ve dived with wrote me to say that Great White sharks are “the most misunderstood animal on the planet. Once you have an opportunity to dive with them, you begin to understand their true nature and predicable behavior. They are not the mindless eating machine that the media portrays them to be. The thrill and excitement cannot be compared.”
I keep leading these trips and creating these encounters for myself and for others because they create a kind of magic. I have never felt more human – and more vulnerable — than in the presence of a magnificent animal. It might sound a little mystical to you, but when you look into the eye of a whale from very close, and experience that creature’s focused and calm regard, you feel its intelligence in your bones. Maybe even its soul. The memories I take away from these experiences are epic. They also demand of me that I share them with others.
That’s the reason I keep taking it to the edge, pushing the envelope, living outside my comfort zone and even sometimes testing common sense. I feel driven to highlight the meaning wildlife has for us, deeply experience the places where the world’s biggest animals life, and understand how their future co-existence with humanity is going to work for all of us. Wish me luck at Google! I’m looking forward to it.
There are some upcoming trips that I’d like you to know about. We have an October 16, 2010 departure to Mexico’s Baja California for a close encounter, both in-cage and out of the cage, with the Great White shark. We’ve already sold out one of these trips this year, so book now to catch the recently-added October 16th departure. For details, visit the trop page for the Great White shark expedition.
In Mexico, December 4 – 12, 2010, there are just three spots left for an intimate look at the world’s greatest game fish, the striped marlin. We’ll venture out on a 36-foot dive boat to see the secret places where magnificent striped marlin gather to feed. Our home base will be warm and sunny Todos Santos, near enough to Cabo San Lucas if you feel the urge, but with its own quiet charm if you want to drink that in.
April 17 – May 1, 2011 we’ll be in the Canadian High Arctic, following in the legendary footsteps of Henry Hudson, Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, Richard Byrd, Roald Amundsen and Nanook for an unforgettable adventure in wildlife photography. Expect long sunrises and sunsets filled with warm, golden light – perfect for photography. We’ll see polar bears, seals and whales, with icebergs calving in the distance, and also get some experience of Inuit camp life. Just four spots left on this trip, so book now.
Coming up on February 9-26, 2012 I’m going to take just five people to Antarctica to experience an encounter with the Leopard seal. We’ll be aboard the 158-foot luxury ice-class yacht Hanse Explorer.