Whale Watching – July 24, 2011

A while back my friends Shelly, John, and I purchased Whale Watching Tour tickets from Travel Zoo for $49 each.  If you are not familiar with Travel Zoo check it out.  They send a weekly Top 20 list with some amazing trips, but occasionally they also send local deals.

The Whale Watching Tour was out of Bellingham with Island Mariner Cruises.  A few weeks back, we randomly choose July 24th.  I haven’t minded our summer so far, but many will tell you this hasn’t been a very dry summer (in other words…lots of rain).  Because of that, we had no idea what weather would show up.  We paid very close attention to the weather forecast the entire week and things were looking good.  But, we do live in the Pacific Northwest and given the accuracy of weather reports I’m surprised meteorologist aren’t losing their jobs left and right.  Much to our surprise, they were 100% correct this time.  The weather was just amazing.  The only clouds we saw all day were wispy picture worthy ones (see my photo link later in this post).

Shelly and I left my house around 730a and yep we did stop at Starbucks to pick up tea for us and a frap for John.  We picked up John on the way and headed North.  We discussed several times how long the tour would be, and since we only paid $49 we assumed we’d be on the boat 3-4 hours.  Shelly suggested we ask when we got there and it’s a good thing we did.  Turns out the trip would be 7 hours long.  John brought his lunch, I brought some snacks, but Shelly didn’t have anything.  We stopped by a coffee shop and got a couple of cookies.  They had some less-than-stellar food options on the boat so we managed.  And of course, I had to rearrange my dog check-ins.  Tania was going to stop by at noon, so I called Ericka and she agreed to stop by at 4pm…thank goodness…Aker wouldn’t have survived with this puppy bladder that long.

Island Mariner Cruises suggested we get there about 930am (boat was scheduled to leave at 10am), so we could board and get a seat.  When we got there at 935am the entire top of the boat was filled so we had resigned to sit on the lower level.  Well the greedy folks that got there before us also set their stuff on the lower tables to reserve them.  The absolute only seats left were on the bow of the boat…thank goodness for nice weather.  At that moment Shelly realized she had forgotten her sea-sickness meds.  After talking to the boat captain we were assured that the water was going to be calm all day, so it should work out (and, it did).

The day was amazing.  We started in Bellingham, wondered through the San Juan Islands and ended in the Strait of Juan De Fuca before turning and heading back.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing and photographing all the sailboats.  There is something calming about the look of a sailboat on a nice day.  We saw many sea birds…the most memorable one was the rhinoceros auklet.  Apparently they grow a little horn on their beak during mating season.  We also saw two harbor seals…actually John and Shelly saw a third baby harbor seal, but I totally missed it.  The first one I saw was right after we took off, so I wasn’t at all ready with my camera.  We saw the second one much later in the day.  I got some pictures and after some cropping even had one that I could post.  Then there were the Minky whales.  They are often referred to as Slinky Minkys because they are hard to keep track of.  They can descend for up to 20 minutes.  Plus, they didn’t come very far out of the water.  Our guide also referred to them as Stinky Minkys because of their horrible breathe and believe me you could smell it from a great distance.  I set my camera on the action setting with burst and just clicked away.  I got a tone of horrible pictures and a few that after some cropping weren’t too bad.  Finally, one of my favorite things to photo of the day was Mount Baker.  It was amazing and luckily the bright sun didn’t hurt the exposure much at all.  The only disappointment was that the Orcas were a no-show.  Apparently they were about75 miles away from us near the opening of the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

Over-all I think I got some pretty decent photos and I had a blast!

After our long day on the water, we stopped for dinner on our way home.  It was then that we discovered we got quite a bit of sun and wind.  But it wasn’t until the next morning that I really saw the ramifications of sitting on the bow of a boat for 7 hours on a sunny day.  Holy Raccoon Eyes…most of it was windburn so it’s calmed down a lot since Monday…whew!

Photography Journal:

  • Very bright day, but pictures still turned out well.  In fact the water was beautiful colors of blue and green.
  • I really wish I would have had a longer lens to capture the whales better.
  • It was hard to keep the horizon straight with the rocking of the boat.  Fortunately I found the straightening tool in Roxio.
  • I tried a reflection picture in Shelly’s sunglasses and really loved it except for the fact the reflection was of me taking a picture.  It would have been better to get someone else’s reflection in the sunglasses.  Would love to try that again sometime.
  • I’m still having trouble remembering to completely think through my composition before pushing the shutter button.  Although in my defense, when whale watching, there isn’t much time to think.  For most of the whale pictures I just shot and figured I’d try to sort through them and clean them up later.  I tried to be more aware when taking the Mount Baker photos.  And, the sailboats to some degree…but with our boat and their boat moving it was a hard.