Wrapping Up

Tail SlapIt’s time to wrap up my humpback whale season for this year. It’s been another productive and fantastic season — so many whales, lots of friends, and learning more about humpbacks.

I haven’t been able to post as much as I wanted, because I’ve been too busy on the water. By the time I get back, clean up and grab dinner, pretty much all I can handle is downloading the day’s photos and doing a quick check of my gear before crashing for the night.

To give you an idea of how productive the season was, I’ve got about 40 GB of photos to go through. Of course, not all will be great shots, but they’re all usable images, and many are useful for ID and comparison purposes later.

The downside, of course, is that the prospect of going through all those images is daunting. In the days of film, it was fairly easy to scan over a roll of film on the lightbox, select an image or two, and throw the rest away.

With digital images, I’ve got to spend more time looking through and sorting them out. My laptop is just about on its last legs, so it looks like I’ll be needing to get newer and faster hardware soon, as well as upgrading some of my software. It’s a never-ending battle to keep up with the latest technology. Mom and Calf

Speaking of technology, this was the first chance I’ve had to use the Canon 5D underwater. The results I’ve gotten are really impressive, particularly with the “Picture Style” function that Canon has built into the 5D. In short, the picture styles allow you to select from several pre-defined setting parameters, which are intended to replicate the various styles produced by film.

For instance, the “Landscape” setting produces images that look a lot like what the classic FujiFilm RVP Velvia 50 looked like. So if you’re an old-timer who’s lamenting the passing of Velvia, give the Landscape picture style setting a try.

SleepingThere are other settings too, which produce different results. If you shoot RAW (you should if you don’t), you can switch Picture Styles later with Canon’s bundled image previewing software. To be honest, the software is a bit clunky and slow, so I don’t use it often, but when I want to use a specific picture style, it’s easy to do.

Of course, I relied a lot on my trusty 1D MkII and 1Ds MkII cameras too. The 1D MkII is without question the best digital SLR for surface action. For fast-action breaching, tail-slapping…whatever, you can’t go wrong with this camera. At 16.7 MP, the 1Ds MkII has awesome resolution, which is great for prints and such. Canon’s due for some major new equipment announcements soon…I can’t wait to see what’s coming!

Back to the whales…

In the past week or so, I’ve had a whole range of encounters — from mother/ calf pairs (with and without escorts), adult pairs and trios, singers, tail-slapping, breaching…the works. Words simply cannot do my experiences justice. Singer

Particularly rewarding these last few days was encountering many of the same whales I’ve seen before. For instance, one of the first mother/ calf pairs I encountered in the season turned up about five weeks later, and the growth of the healthy and enthusiastic baby was obvious. Friendly the first time around, the mother/ calf pair was friendly again, which made for more memorable encounters.

In the last week, I also came across the first all-black, white-pectoral whale that I met early during this season — White Hand. He was as playful as before, demonstrating the same high level of curiosity as before, and again he was on his own. I’m speculating that perhaps he’s too young to mate yet, and is just roaming around having fun. Given how easy it is to identify him (by markings and by “personality”), I’m hopeful that I’ll see him again in the future, maybe with a cute female humpback next time.

And as if to say farewell, on my last day out, a calf I had encountered before breached just a few metres from my boat, and then the mom and calf breached and tail-slapped for over an hour. Finally, an escort joined them, and I was able to get in several times to swim among the three whales. What a wonderful way to end the trip!

Making MelodiesAs I recover and slowly make my way through the photos, I’ll post some to my Flickr page (of course, I still have to make it through many GBs of photos from other trips too!).

A big thanks to everyone who helped me through this season — especially my wonderful friends at Canon, Zillion and Aquaforum. I was lucky to have a number of talented underwater photographers join me this season too — Eric Cheng, Takaji Ochi, Naoyuki Toyoda, Kentaro Hosoda, Kelvin Aitken — to share a few adventures.

TrioI also had lots of friends from Japan who came dropped in over the past few weeks, and of course, there’s no way I could have made it through the season without my terrific friends in Tonga, far too many to name. Thank you all and see you next year!!!

Next up is Manado and the Lembeh Strait, where I’ll be heading soon. I’ll be moving around a bit, but staying mostly with Murex Dive Resorts & Liveaboards and the new Kasawari-Lembeh Resort. The North Sulawesi area has some of the world’s most amazing macro critter life, so it’s time for me to pack away the super-wide-angle lenses and dust off my super-macro gear.

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