whale shooting tips


TPF Noob!
Mar 5, 2009
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Salem Oregon
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Im going to be going to the beach today or tomorrow to get some shots o fthe migrating whales. i will Be on shore and the weather is overcast. The whales can be close out to around 5 miles. Does anyone have any tips, camera settings/lens and such
well for lens you want your longest one possible - at 5 miles out with you on the beach its not going to be easy. I would say go with a mind for more landscape type shots (yes even with the telephoto lens) rather than always trying to zoom right in on the whales as at 5 miles its not going to work sadly. If they come close then use your middle focusing point - aim and fire! If they are dancing for you and they are close enough then raise you ISO - 800 would be my cap for such an event unless conditions were very overcast then maybe higher just to get the shot - but noise might kill finer details sadly. It will depend on the weather
Overcast will make things tricky as flash won't have any effect at those ranges - so you will have to look to raising your ISO and also trying to use a larger aperture (smaller f number) to get your shutter speeds up - and even if your shooting from a tirpod (which would help) you will still need a respectable speed for the whales.
Good luck with the shooting - never had a chance to see a migration myself (correct that never seen a real live whale before)
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Tripod & your 75-300 give you about a 0.00001% chance of getting anything decent. Very rarely do whales come in close enogh to shore to get any kind of decent shot. You may be lucky enough to get a "blow" off in the distance. I've got a 500mm with a 1.4 TC, which gives me a 700mm, and I wouldn't expect much with that.

EDIT: dangit Overread...you did it to me again.....I gotta learn to type faster.
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5 miles????!!!! Can you even see them at that distance? I don't think photography of anything smaller than a mountain is possible to us mortals at that kind of range. :mrgreen:
Watching the whales migrate is a time honored tradition, and there are a number of places where they come in close to shore....

There are also some places where the Orca congregate to pick off the young calves. Sometimes there is too much action to see.. The 300mm might be limiting.........500mm would be nicer, and the light is important too... Think of it as an adventure !!

Find where the old-timers are. They must know something.... Mount on a sturdy Tripos, dress warm and have lots of coffee....

In a days shooting you may get some great stuff..

People travel all over the world for Whale watching.


In Hawaii..
If you're lucky (or unlucky), and get very close you might need a wide angle lens ;)
Try to find a Whale Watching boat. They often have half day cruises that aren't expensive. Take all your lenses. You'll probably use your telephoto most. I was on a 63' research vessel off Magdelina Bay on the west coast of Baja. Whales (California Greys) can be very curious. We had a couple come up right along side the boat and I got a shot right down the blow hole with a 50mm. By the way, there is nothing worse than the stench of whale breath. If you're lucky enough to get that close and you see the blow hole open....RUN. Sorry I don't have the photo. They all belonged to the lab.

Tom Beard
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I'm cruising in Alaska in May and plan on taking a whale-watching tour. I have my lenses primed and ready!
Well I don't know how big your budget is, but a Lens with some sort of vibration reduction or image stabelization will be a must. At least a 300mm lens on a monopod. If the boat is smaller it will move around a lot on you, but if you have a tripod people will trip on the legs a lot.

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