Today a very good photographer booked an adventure to Tonga to photograph whales. After talking for about an hour, I learned she had tried to photograph whales once before in the Silver Banks but the trip did not live up to her expectations or produce the kinds of images expected. Poor visibility was a big reason. Too many people was another.
The boat she was on had about 20 people, and used two zodiacs. What she didn’t like was that everyone was in the water at the same time with the same whales. While she said the operator made every effort to keep the swimmers together it always happened that at the critical moment the same people would dart in front of the rest of the group to get a better picture. In the cacophony their swimming caused the whales would turn away and the people in the behind them would see nothing but whale tales swimming away.
Meeting the expectations of 18 – 20 people on a whale swimming trip can not be easy. In order for everyone on the boat to have great encounters, each person on the boat has to adopt an all about we – not all about me attitude. This is a difficult task for many people, and especially photographers. Sadly, some people are by their nature more about themselves than getting along with others when it comes to group dynamics.
Whales respond well to small groups of people that are floating together in a passive non aggressive manner. Its all good when the whales come in close to check out people then do a ballet. That cant happen if a few swimmers are selfish and swim forward to the whale at the wrong angle, or angle. Some people look through the lens and forget to stay with the group, and in a short time they can find themselves alone and in the path of an oncoming whale.
While the cost of going on a whale swim live-aboard for 4 guests is higher than it is to go on an 18-20 passenger boat, the bottom line is that the participants get so much more for their money. For one thing their are fewer people. When it comes to whales fewer people means more time in the water with whales. More time means more opportunity to create beautiful photographs.
Wildlife is the name of the boat I will be hosting whale swimming adventures dedicated to photography. The boat is a brand new live-aboard and is a 54 foot sailing catamaran. We take 4 guests on the adventure of a lifetime. In regard to 2012 charters, currently there is space on the Sept 21-29 adventure. Contact me for information.