One of  my favourite expressions in photography is ‘It’s not a chiche if I haven’t done it before.’ Meaning of course, a photograph may have been taken hundreds or even thousands of times by other photographers, but is not something I have ever photographed before and therefore not a cliche. I dont know who first coined the phrase; but it rings true for me. So forgive me if you find these next photographs somewhat of a cliche; but its the first time I have done them. :-)

Whilst I was in the South Island of  New Zealand earlier this year I took the opportunity to take a whale charter to find and photograph Sperm whales. I have never photographed whales before, but I have seen enough photographs of them to know that the decisive moment is either catching the fluke just before a sounding, or if one is really lucky a breach. Sperm whales rarely breach so I knew I would have to be extremley fortunate to see such an event, let alone capture it on the camera’s sensor.

Whale Tale

As fate would have it there were no whale breaches on the day. But, I was lucky enough to see and photograph several whale soundings. I used a 70-200mm F2.8L IS lens with a 1.4X Tele Extender on my 1DS MK3 for these photographs. I did not have the 300mm F2.8L IS in New Zealand; which would have been my preferred lens for this shoot. We were fortunate in that we had three independent whale sightings in the few hours we were at sea. The weather was overcast and grey throughout the day; which made keeping a high enough shutter speed to freeze the action somewhat of a challenge. The other interesting challenge is keeping the horizon in the photograph to keep the whale in the context of it’s surroundings. Getting low is the key and all of these photographs were taken kneeling down for the lowest possible angle of view from the bow of the boat.


Wildlife photography is not something I do a lot of. I typically do not find the larger Australian mammals all that photogenic and there is somewhat of a shortage of big cats and wild game in this country!. This opportunity to photograph Sperm Whales off the coast of New Zealand certainly rates as one of my best wildlife photography experiences and one I hope to repeat soon.

Tale Held High

One Comment

  1. Posted December 26, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink | Reply

    Nice shots of the whale. Wish I have that chance..

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  1. […] time I have been out photographing whales. In July last year I spent several hours photographing Sperm Whales off the coast of the South Island of New Zealand. But that was during the middle of the day in flat rather dull overcast light. This time the […]

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