Date with the Whales


We have never ever thought of going into deep sea for seeing killer Whales in our life but I guess we got super lucky to see these magnificent gigantic mammals in our last trip to Sri Lanka as a part of our driving holiday trip with fellow driving enthusiasts.

So this was during one of our driving holidays in Sri Lanka and this time instead of going somewhere all the way on the wheels, we decided to venture into the sea. Unfortunately our cars couldn't go there so we had to take a boat into the sea :) The mission - to spot and shoot (with camera) the magnificent mammals - the Whales ! We were a group of almost 17 cars driving around Sri Lanka and making our presence felt to the sweet and hospitable Sri Lankans. One of the activity was to see these mammals and hence we landed up at one of the beautiful coasts of Sri Lanka - the lovely Marissa.

It was a lovely morning and we woke up early morning together ready and start for the whale watching trip. After a great breakfast at the resort we stayed in, we formed the convoy and drove towards Marissa, the starting point for the adventure trip. It was a beautiful coastal drive from the resort and it us an hour plus to reach starting point. The approach roads were good with well mannered traffic as it was everywhere in Sri Lanka.

Upon reaching the coast we parked our vehicles and got on boarded the boat reserved for our group.

Parking ticket

Amenities at the shore

One of the ships sailing in the deep seas

The place was full of fishermen selling their daily catch and was bustling with local people who would want to buy the freshest seafood. The same place was the starting point for tourist boats who would take them into the sea with a positive promise of spotting Whales or Dolphins and bring smile on your faces.

Local fishermen and the fish market

Fresh catch of the day

Fresh catch of the day

Local fishermen selling the day's catch

Local shops at the fish market

The guy selling the tools for the fishermen

Raja and the Whales :) a local tour operator

Fish market

Fish market

This was the jetty we boarded our boat from. The boat was looking small at the first sight but was enough to accommodate all of us - nearly 13-15 people. It had 2 decks, the top deck as shown in the picture below and the bottom deck which could seat some more people.

So after boarding the our boat we slowly started sailing into the deep sea that provided us a lot of opportunities for shooting beautiful landscapes or I should say seascapes ! The weather was cool, the breeze was cold and the views were to live for ! It was our first touristy activity to do after a long drive on earlier days and was a welcome break from the self-drive to getting driven :) and we truly enjoyed it.

Boats parked on the shore at the jetties

Security guard - don't know what he was doing there though !

One of the boats parked in the waters

As we move into the deep sea

Some shots at the sea

One of the other boats in the waters

The island views

The perfect land/seascape

Tip

It is always recommended to use a CPL filter to cut down the flare and the sun reflection. Look at the above image that is taken with a CPL filter and the below one without a CPL filter unless you want to show the reflections as in below picture.

You can buy CPL filters online by clicking on the image above.

Feel free to speak to me if you have any questions regarding which filter is the right for what camera lens and setting.

Local fishermen

Local fishermen

You see different colours here in the picture below which is more yellowish and the one above is more blueish. This is done by adjusting the White balance of your camera. This setting allows you to define the "tone" of your picture and helps you convey the mood of the scene you're shooting.

Like in picture above which conveys the temperature of the day to be on sunny side and the below picture conveys the deep blue waters and that the day could have been cold or as if it was taken in morning without much sun light. All this is possible by using correct settings and accessories like the lens filters.

If you want to learn these techniques, you can join one of my classes on basic and advanced photography. Feel free to send me a mail or connect with me on Facebook for class schedule.

It was a long drive to the place where there was a possibility to see the whales. Lots of passengers started feeling sleepy and actually some dozed off as well..

People taking a quick nap :)

It was quite sunny by now and was getting humid as well. The boat guys provided us with water and fruits on board plus some snacks as well.

This was my gear for the shoot today. A nice superhero lens kit and the great Nikon bodies - one Full format and the other one a Dx body for long range. Both served well in the end.

Loved the blues ..

The local fishermen hunting for their daily catch ..

See below the herd of boats heading into the deep waters for Whale watching !

The Pano shot

As we sailed into the deep sea people started looking out for the mammals but there was no sign of spotting anything other than a herd of boats looking for the Whales as we did.. It was a long sail into the sea, the temperature started rising and the sun started biting with its hot rays. It was getting difficult to sit in the direct sun so some of us started hiding under the sheds and taking shelter to protect from the burning sun rays until someone screamed W H A L E . . . . W H A L E . . . . W H A L E . . . .

Suddenly everyone woke up and jumped on to the side where the WHALE was spotted.. at that point the boat tilted almost 30+ degrees into the water that it looked like we are going to sink but GOD was kind and we were told that the boat was capable of handling such scenarios safely ! OOOH that was promising and we could focus on the beautiful mammals rather than worrying about toppling of the boat. And man the first sighting was awesome, the magnificent mammals would appear for few seconds and then go back to the water after jumping for 2-3 times giving us amazing opportunity for capturing the beautiful moments. Enjoy the pictures below

The Whales from the Indian ocean.

Look at that beautiful tail

And here she dives back int the ocean

And now the next appearance. This time she came so close that I couldn't even get her to fit into my lens and had to switch to another camera and lens immediately. This was challenging and I had to be quick in switching over for capture the beautiful creature ..

Lovely .. isn't it ?

And here is the signature tail wavering ..

All pictures in this blog are taken with

Nikon D750 or D7100 with Nikor 200-500mm and 70-200 VR III Lens.

And few final shots before she disappeared again

All pictures in this blog are taken with

Nikon D750 or D7100 with Nikor 200-500mm and 70-200 VR III Lens.

It was a wonderful sighting .. amazing it was !

Now we would wait for another 7 minutes for them to re-appear from somewhere and then there we see them again jumping out of water, giving us a glimpse and then again go back into the deep waters.. It was good fun, waiting for them to appear and as soon as they would appear everyone used to shout .. there .. there.. there it comes again !!

Some more boats hunting for the whales

And then she comes back again ! This time in the middle of couple of boats and woooo.. it was scary and a wonderful moment to capture. See the spray .. lovely !

See the boats tilting .. wow that was certainly scary at some times..

There she goes back again ..

Come back again and then goes back into the waters..

Lovely .. isn't it ?

Loved every move ..

My favourite shot ! Lovely ! Gorgeous ! Stunning !

The water clouds :)

TIP

The key to shoot and capture these mammals and any wildlife that is moving at high speeds is to use a fast lens and also use the correct metering for correct exposure, else you will miss the shots or may get blur in your shots with improper exposure of the subject. To get the correct exposure, it is recommended to shoot in Aperture priority mode to difference subject from water in this case and use "spot" metering mode. In this shot, if I would have not used the spot metering, the picture would have been over of underexposed.

If you want to learn these techniques, you can join one of my classes on basic and advanced photography. Feel free to send me a mail or connect with me on Facebook for class schedule.

I used a Nikon 70-200 VR III for this shot and am very happy with the results. Click on the image below to check out the lens details or to buy.


Lovely mammals !

... and the signature move

Last few before she went down again !

the beauty ....

And this is what makes me feel bad.. we Humans must stop this !

Lovely vistas all over the place..

The island views

Views views views ...

Look at that splash of water .. lovely !

Lovely views all the way ..

Some fort and the watch tower or a lighthouse I guess !

From the shore

Local fishermen

Local fishermen

Local fishermen

Local fishermen .. see the motivation behind :)

Local fishermen

Wow, it was so much fun at the end and very satisfying trip to the deep waters to see these wonderful creatures of sea. After about few spottings we decided to turn back as it was time to go back and the boats are not encouraged to be in water for more than couple of hours that w had already exhausted. So it was time to head back to the shore and get going with the next drive and the destination.

The ride back was calm and full of story sharing with the fellow friends on the boat. Everybody was excited to see the whales finally and were happy with the time invested for the trip to the deep blue sea. I managed to take some pictures as well and was satisfied with the shots. I hope to do this trip sometime again in my life and make some more memories with these beautiful creatures.

Local fishermen with their nets

Local fishermen boats

Local fishermen with their nets

Local fishermen with their nets

Local coconut seller

The views from far

Some tips on photographing these mammals

  • It is recommended to carry 2 bodies preferably with one short range lens and one with telephoto range to capture close ups and the habitat shots

  • Keep the camera settings as appropriate to the weather and available lighting at that point

  • Shoot in Aperture priority mode so that you can get the mammal in focus and throw out all the other things in the frame including water to give a sense of the depth

  • Keep the metering on spot metering as it will help get the proper exposure of the subject (whale in this case). As the whales are dark in colour, it will probably be required to over expose them by at least few stops to get the proper exposure of whales and water both

  • Keep a steady hand if you're shooting handheld and keep the shutter speed as possible to get the proper exposure as the whales move very fast and if the shutter is slow, you'll get a lot of shake/movement in the picture - unless you want to show the movement itself !

  • I've seen couple of folks using tripod or monopod to get steady shot BUT my experience shooting these subjects from a boat running diesel/kerosene engines has taught me NOT to use them as they get the vibrations from the engines and cause shake in the pictures captured making the pictured blurred. So its better to shoot handheld instead of using tripod / monopod on the boat floor unless the boat is till which is not very much possible

  • Lastly, the most important point is to carry a polarising filter for cutting down on the reflection from the water and a las hood to cut the sun flare. A good quality CPL filter is must to get the deep blue colour as in the pictures above

  • Finally, keep a rain cover always to protect your gear from unexpected rain / water splashing as the sea water could be deadly for your gear if exposed to salt water or high humidity or sunlight

  • If you've shot in such conditions and have a tip to share, please leave it in the comments. It would help others learn !

Enjoy !

#Marissa #Whalewatching #Mammals #Boatrid #IndianOcean

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Copyright Amit Pahuja

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