Something Old, Something New

Preparing for my series of upcoming talks about humpback whales has made it necessary to trawl through my archives to find and edit images to illustrate my planned narrative (wow...that makes me sound so much more organised than I actually am).

The upside of going through this painful process is that it's given me a terrific opportunity to spend time with photos I haven't seen in years, to recall many of the amazing encounters and experiences I've had, and to realise that I really need to spend more time editing photos (yeah...that'll never happen).

Taking a quick break from presentation prep, I thought I'd share a couple of my favourites from the past few days of photo-editing.

First, a picture from 2005, during an encounter with a pair of whales engaged in courtship:

humpback whale taking breath, tonga
Humpback whale hitting the brakes while taking a breath (License image)

As often seems to be the case when humpbacks are paired up with the opposite sex, the whales become inquisitive, their movements fluid and graceful, their pectoral fins sometimes swerving and curving as pictured here. 

I didn't have sufficient experience or knowledge at the time to understand what I was seeing, so it's kinda' cool to look back at this image and associated photos, recall the events, and relive/ reinterpret what was happening ten years ago. 

Fast-forward to the 2014 season, and this image of a particularly aggressive male humpback whale blowing bubbles in a competitive group heat run is one that stands out in my mind:

humpback whale blowing bubbles in heat run
Aggressive humpback whale male blowing dramatic trail of bubbles (License image)

I've dreamt about taking a photo like this for many years.

Hormone-raged whales charging by at top speed, at depth, with an aggressive male belching forth a spectacular stream of bubbles to ward off the other boys. This male with white pectoral fins was one of two primary contenders for the female in question. He was really rambunctious, as the plethora of scars on his body suggests. 

Both encounters, separated by a decade, were incredible.

But what makes them all-the-more special to me is the time, effort, and experience that these two images bookend.

By 2005, I had invested a couple of months' cumulative time trying to photograph humpback whales...but really, I didn't know what I was doing.

The 2014 southern hemisphere winter marked my 13th time in Tonga observing humpbacks. During that time, I've seen a lot, experienced more than I can possibly describe...and yet, I'm sure that several years from now, when I look back, I'll feel then exactly as I do about 2005 now.

I'll think: "I didn't know what I was doing."