Tag

Marine Mammals

Humpback Whale Underwater Bubble Streaming Among Rowdy Groups in Hawaii

Hawaii, Humpback Whale

During the years I worked for Dan Salden and Hawaii Whale Research Foundation studying humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Hawaii, we usually looked for surface active groups (“rowdy groups“) when possible, since these groups offered the greatest potential for collecting the social affiliation information that was the focus of Dan’s decades of research on humpback whales. Bubble blasts and bubble streaming were often a part of the rowdy group’s activities, by one or several whales. We would spend time photographing as many fluke IDs as we could, to identify which whales were in the group, as well as noting those animals that would depart or join during the time we were observing them. Eventually, if conditions were right, we would enter the water to observe them below the surface. The goal at this point was to determine the roles that the individual whales had: primary escort, challenging escorts, focal female, peripheral individuals, etc. Often these roles are clear from topside views, but not always, so getting in the water is important. Gradually, over years of observation, we accumulated a lot of interesting, unique video of active groups, including the bubble streaming that would occur in these groups. I had opportunities to shoot still photographs of the bubble streaming too. Below are some of my favorite images of humpback whales from my time in Hawaii. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater near mother and calf. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf. The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the mother.
Image ID: 05928
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female (left) during a competitive group.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.
Image ID: 02828
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Primary escort male humpback whale bubble streaming during competitive group socializing.  This primary escort is swimming behind a female. The bubble curtain may be a form of intimidation towards other male escorts that are interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Primary escort male humpback whale bubble streaming during competitive group socializing. This primary escort is swimming behind a female.
Image ID: 04432
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf (barely seen in the distance), Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf (barely seen in the distance).
Image ID: 04434
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female during competitive group activities.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female during competitive group activities.
Image ID: 04444
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.
Image ID: 05925
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Male North Pacific humpback whale streams a trail of bubbles.  The primary male escort whale (center) creates a curtain of bubbles underwater as it swims behind a female (right), with other challenging males trailing behind in a competitive group.  The bubbles may be a form of intimidation from the primary escort towards the challenging escorts, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Male North Pacific humpback whale streams a trail of bubbles. The primary male escort whale (center) creates a curtain of bubbles underwater as it swims behind a female (right), with other challenging males trailing behind in a competitive group.
Image ID: 05968
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group.   The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims closely behind a female, .  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby males interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims closely behind a female.
Image ID: 06001
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group.   The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims closely behind a female, .  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby males interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group.
Image ID: 06037
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female (left) during a competitive group.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.
Image ID: 02826
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

NOTE: These photographs were taken during Hawaii Whale Research Foundation research activities conducted under NOAA/NMFS and State of Hawaii scientific research permits.

California Sea Lions at Los Islotes, Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, Baja California, Mexico

Mexico, Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Photography

California sea lions underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

California sea lions underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31205
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

In October, Tracy and I joined our friends Mike and Sherry, Skip, Shirley, Barb and Walt for 9 wonderful days diving in the Sea of Cortez around La Paz. It was the first time Tracy and I had been diving together for any length of time in 18 years. It was so much fun to be back in the water together and the Sea of Cortez in Fall is about as relaxed, easy, warm and fun as can be. Los Islotes, a small island just north of Espiritu Santo, is famous for its rookery of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). I love diving there, more than perhaps any other place in the Sea of Cortez, and in particular like being there early or late in the day when there are no day boats around. (I could have spent the entire trip at Islotes, but fortunately for the others we did venture north to some relatively unexplored, colorful and fishy reefs that Mike has found over the years and keeps under wraps.) Islotes was as fishy as I have ever seen it, with enormous dense polarized schools of sardines along with pargo and other larger reef fish which the Sea of Cortez used to have in abundance but which are now harder to find. Los Islotes does have some legal protections against fishing, and these protections help to keep the waters around Islotes reasonably full of big fish and other marine life. But Islotes is also under threat of illegal fishing, and it is only through vigilance by those who care about a healthy Sea of Cortez that the laws that are on the books will mean something. Seawatch has made some progress on this front, but its difficult to keep eyes on Islotes 24-hours a day.

Here are some of my favorite images from our October dives around Islotes. I don’t keep a log any more but I would guess I spent about 30 hours underwater just photographing the sea lions, really getting to know several adult groups and having a great time watching how one bull in particular would manage his harem of females over the course of 4-5 days, not to mention the 30+ pups that would play with us at the edge of his territory. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California sea lion underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

California sea lion underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31206
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion underwater in beautiful sunset light, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion underwater in beautiful sunset light
Image ID: 31208
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Young California sea lion pups underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

Young California sea lion pups underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31209
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion blowing underwater bubbles as it stands on its flippers, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion blowing underwater bubbles as it stands on its flippers
Image ID: 31210
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Blue-bronze sea chub schooling, Sea of Cortez, Kyphosus analogus

Blue-bronze sea chub schooling, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 31213
Species: Blue-bronze Chub, Kyphosus analogus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion and school of sardines underwater, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Zalophus californianus

California sea lion and school of sardines underwater, Sea of Cortez, Baja California
Image ID: 31220
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Young sea lion hides in an underwater crevice, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Young sea lion hides in an underwater crevice
Image ID: 31226
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sardines and Scad, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Sardines and Scad, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31246
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion harem of females, underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion harem of females, underwater
Image ID: 31247
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Large adult male sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Large adult male sea lion underwater
Image ID: 31248
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Seven of my Favorite Images #challengeonnaturephotography

Alaska, Antarctica, Bald Eagle, California, Fiji, Hawaii, Mexico, Ocean Sunfish, Penguin, Surf, Underwater Photography

In December a Facebook “challenge” was making the rounds named #challengeonnaturephotography. One of my favorite underwater photographers, Allison Vitsky Sallmon, nominated me to give it a try, and these are the seven images I plucked from my files to share. Each bears a special place in my personal history of travel, diving and photography, even if they don’t cut any new ground photographically. If you want to connect you can find me on Facebook and Instagram. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Ocean sunfish recruiting fish near drift kelp to clean parasites, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish recruiting fish near drift kelp to clean parasites, open ocean, Baja California.
Image ID: 03267
Species: Ocean sunfish, Mola mola

Sunrise breaking wave, dawn surf, The Wedge, Newport Beach, California

Sunrise breaking wave, dawn surf.
Image ID: 27978
Location: The Wedge, Newport Beach, California, USA

Dendronephthya soft corals and schooling Anthias fishes, feeding on plankton in strong ocean currents over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Gau Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago

Dendronephthya soft corals and schooling Anthias fishes, feeding on plankton in strong ocean currents over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world.
Image ID: 31378
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias
Location: Gau Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago, Fiji

Bald eagle spreads its wings to land amid a large group of bald eagles, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Haliaeetus leucocephalus washingtoniensis, Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska

Bald eagle spreads its wings to land amid a large group of bald eagles.
Image ID: 22669
Species: Bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Haliaeetus leucocephalus washingtoniensis
Location: Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska, USA

A curious Adelie penguin, standing at the edge of an iceberg, looks over the photographer, Pygoscelis adeliae, Paulet Island

A curious Adelie penguin, standing at the edge of an iceberg, looks over the photographer.
Image ID: 25015
Species: Adelie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae
Location: Paulet Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place, Eschrichtius robustus, San Clemente

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place.
Image ID: 29029
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Clemente, California, USA

Humpback whale (male) singing, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Humpback whale (male) singing.
Image ID: 02813
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA

Killer Whales (Orca) attacking California Sea Lion

Marine Life, Sea Lion

I saw Wild Kingdom in action yesterday: killer whales preying upon California sea lions. Classified as Biggs transient orcas, these individuals are well known (CA51) for terrorizing other marine mammals along the Southern California coast. “Biggs transients” are one of four distinct populations (some insist they are species) of killer whales, characterized by predating upon marine mammals and occasionally sea birds as opposed to ground fish or salmon as do other coastal orcas. Coming upon the five killer whales as they finished toying with and consuming one predation (likely a sea lion), we watched them proceed to take at least two more sea lions over the next hour. In each of the following photos there is a sea lion although in some it is hard to find. The first image depicts the first hit that one of the adult orcas put upon the sea lion. I knew it was coming but still nearly did not get the lens on the sea lion in time. Several other hits took place and the sea lion was clearly panicky and stunned. In the third image, one of the females passes by the sea lion but what is not obvious is that there are two other orcas just below and in front of the sea lion, the pinniped is literally surrounded. There were two subadult orca in the group and it may have been a case of the adults allowing the subadults to learn how to hunt; in practical terms the pack was toying with its doomed prey. In the fifth photo you can see how close to shore this took place. In the final three images, the sea lion is 1) barely able to avoid being pushed under by one of the females, 2) hammered sideways by one of the adults, and 3) gasps for breath before being finally pulled under for the last time and consumed. I don’t photograph killer whales often, but have photographed other whale species including humpback whales and blue whales and some dolphins: Cetacean Photos. For my diving buddies who might be wondering: this was purely a topside trip. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30428
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30429
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30427
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30430
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30431
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30432
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30433
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30425
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Killer whale attacking sea lion.  Biggs transient orca and California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus, Palos Verdes

Killer whale attacking sea lion. Biggs transient orca and California sea lion.
Image ID: 30426
Species: Killer whale, California sea lion, Orcinus orca, Zalophus californianus
Location: Palos Verdes, California, USA

Blue Whale Full Body Photo

Blue Whale, Icons, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Blue Whale Full Body Photo

For more, see Blue Whale Photos, Balaenoptera musculus

I made my first underwater photo of a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) about 18 years ago, and over the intervening years I have struggled to make a perfect image of an entire blue whale, rostrum to fluke, one with which I am entirely satisfied. This image of an adult blue whale underwater, which I made while out on the water off San Diego with friend and fellow photographer Mike Johnson, is a good example.

Blue whale 80-feet long, full body photograph of an enormous blue whale showing rostrom head to fluke tail, taken at close range with very wide lens, Balaenoptera musculus, San Diego, California

Blue whale 80-feet long, full body photograph of an enormous blue whale showing rostrom head to fluke tail, taken at close range with very wide lens.
Image ID: 27967
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: San Diego, California, USA

This photograph illustrates the snake-like proportions of an adult blue whale as well as the curve of the upper lip bone (the largest single bone in the animal kingdom), the thin ridge on top of the rostrum that leads to the splash guard in front of the whale’s blowhole, and the curious skin mottling that characterizes the species. But technically this image has some problems, the sort that drive underwater photographers nuts. I do not exaggerate when I say trying to photograph an 80′ or longer animal underwater in typical California water conditions is a real challenge! The water is often cloudy or hazy, as can be seen in this image by a “glow” or “halo” that surrounds some of the brighter parts of the subject, particularly around the dorsal ridge and caudal area of the whale which are close to the surface and thus reflecting a great deal of light. With film this haloing was at once less objectionable but nearly impossible to deal with in post processing. With today’s digital tools, the computer operator can attempt to suppress the haloing somewhat but at the risk of adding too much artificiality to the image. So my decision is that it remains. Above water our eyes and lenses are accustomed to seeing things clearly in the range of miles. Underwater, our range of vision is crippled tremendously, measured in just feet. This begs the question: How does one photograph a subject whose dimensions are greater than the distance one can even see? For whales, water visibility must be excellent, 60′ or better, or else much of the leviathan is depicted without detail. In this image, note the whitewater at top left: it is the point where the blue whale left the ocean surface and began its underwater glide but, at about 120′ away, it is rendered with no detail at all. The leading 1/3 of the whale is sufficiently near the camera that it is rendered with plenty of detail, but is not so close that it is distorted by the fisheye lens I was using. The open ocean, miles from shore, is normally the best place to find clear and blue water. Recently, though, the ocean off our coast has been a veritable soup of zooplankton. Abundant salps, sea nettles, filamentous and particulate-like critters float about in an explosion of spineless life. This occasional summer phenomenon is very cool to experience, and in the past I have even stopped to photograph these small weightless water-filled wonders. But on the day I shot this photo, such things are effectively obstacles to photographing much grander subjects. The only way to deal with the situation is to shoot as many photos as possible hoping that, upon review later, one is lucky to have some frames in which the jellies do not obscure the whale. Of the 10 frames I shot while the animal passed by me, rolling on its side to look at us with one eye as it did so, this was the only frame that did not have zooplanktons screwing it up. I experimented with using a silver color conversion on this photo to better accentuate the sunlit whale against the dark, bottomless void of ocean below, and I thought this rendition looked pretty appealing. I do not get out on the ocean much anymore. In fact this may be the only photo of a blue whale I take all year! So I consider myself lucky to have seen it and be able to share the experience with you. Thanks for looking, and cheers!

Whales at the Coronado Islands, Mexico

Islas Coronado, Mexico, Underwater Life

Whales visit the Coronado Islands in Mexico throughout the year. During winter months, gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) pass by the islands, first southbound and a few months later traveling north, during their annual migration between Baja California and the Bering Sea. Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) may be found at the Coronados year-round but spring and summer months are the best times to see them in the islands, especially if there is the presence of krill which does occur from time to time. All of the photos below were taken at the Coronado Islands.

Fin whale dorsal fin.  The fin whale is named for its tall, falcate dorsal fin.  Mariners often refer to them as finback whales.  Coronado Islands, Mexico (northern Baja California, near San Diego), Balaenoptera physalus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

Fin whale dorsal fin. The fin whale is named for its tall, falcate dorsal fin. Mariners often refer to them as finback whales. Coronado Islands, Mexico (northern Baja California, near San Diego).
Image ID: 12769
Species: Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

A blue whale blows (exhales, spouts) as it rests at the surface between dives.  A blue whales blow can reach 30 feet in the air and can be heard for miles.  The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds.  North Coronado Island is in the background, Balaenoptera musculus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

A blue whale blows (exhales, spouts) as it rests at the surface between dives. A blue whales blow can reach 30 feet in the air and can be heard for miles. The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds. North Coronado Island is in the background.
Image ID: 09497
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

A blue whale raises its fluke before diving in search of food.  The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds.  North Coronado Island is in the background, Balaenoptera musculus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

A blue whale raises its fluke before diving in search of food. The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds. North Coronado Island is in the background.
Image ID: 09484
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

Gray whales traveling south to Mexico during their winter migration.  The annual migration of the California gray whale is the longest known migration of any mammal, 10,000 to 12,000 miles from the Bering Sea to Baja California, Eschrichtius robustus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

Gray whales traveling south to Mexico during their winter migration. The annual migration of the California gray whale is the longest known migration of any mammal, 10,000 to 12,000 miles from the Bering Sea to Baja California.
Image ID: 29049
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

Blue whale rounding out at surface, North Coronado island in background, Balaenoptera musculus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

Blue whale rounding out at surface, North Coronado island in background.
Image ID: 02224
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

A blue whale blows (exhales, spouts) as it rests at the surface between dives.  A blue whales blow can reach 30 feet in the air and can be heard for miles.  The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds.  South Coronado Island is in the background, Balaenoptera musculus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

A blue whale blows (exhales, spouts) as it rests at the surface between dives. A blue whales blow can reach 30 feet in the air and can be heard for miles. The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds. South Coronado Island is in the background.
Image ID: 09498
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California Sea Lions, Coronado Islands, Mexico

Islas Coronado, Mexico, Sea Lion, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Some of my favorite diving with California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) has taken place at Mexico’s Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado). The Coronados are a small group of undeveloped rocky islands just offshore of Tijuana, Mexico and only about an hour boat ride south of San Diego. Seemingly barren, the islands are in fact loaded with marine life, including the clown princes of the Pacific, sea lions. Here are a few of my better photos of these noble and beautiful creatures. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California sea lions, Coronado Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lions, Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 02160
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion.
Image ID: 02943
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion, Coronados Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion, Coronados Islands.
Image ID: 00956
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion pup starving during 1997-8 El Nino event, Coronado Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion pup starving during 1997-8 El Nino event, Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 02417
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion colony, Los Coronado Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion colony, Los Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 03077
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

Gray Whale Aerial Photos, Eschrichtius robustus, California

Aerial Photography

Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) migrate from the Bering Sea in Alaska down the west coast of the United States to the “calving lagoons” of Baja California. (A small number of grays whales also live in the extreme western Pacific.) This migration is considered the longest of any mammal. Calves are typically, but not always, born in or very near the Baja California lagoons but are sometimes born north of there, during the southern migration. I have encountered one gray whale mother and newborn gray whale calf well to the north, in the cold gray waters of Big Sur, about 20 years ago. I recently had another special opportunity to photograph gray whales during their southern migration, this time from the air. Southern California had experienced a high pressure weather system that cleared out the air and laid the seas down flat. The best time to fly in such conditions is in the last days of the high pressure, before it breaks. We had clear skies, flat oceans, great visibility, and did see a few whales. These photos are tagged with their exact GPS locations (sometimes I get requests for info from cetacean researchers). Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place, Eschrichtius robustus, San Clemente

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place.
Image ID: 29001
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Clemente, California, USA

Gray whale blowing at the ocean surface, exhaling and breathing as it prepares to dive underwater, Eschrichtius robustus, Encinitas, California

Gray whale blowing at the ocean surface, exhaling and breathing as it prepares to dive underwater.
Image ID: 29045
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: Encinitas, California, USA

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place, Eschrichtius robustus, San Clemente

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place.
Image ID: 29031
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Clemente, California, USA

Gray whales traveling south to Mexico during their winter migration.  The annual migration of the California gray whale is the longest known migration of any mammal, 10,000 to 12,000 miles from the Bering Sea to Baja California, Eschrichtius robustus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

Gray whales traveling south to Mexico during their winter migration. The annual migration of the California gray whale is the longest known migration of any mammal, 10,000 to 12,000 miles from the Bering Sea to Baja California.
Image ID: 29048
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

Gray whale diving below the ocean surface, leaving a footprint in its wake.  Aerial photo, Eschrichtius robustus, Encinitas, California

Gray whale diving below the ocean surface, leaving a footprint in its wake. Aerial photo.
Image ID: 29037
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: Encinitas, California, USA

Whale Triple Header: Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, Fin Whales, Del Mar, California

Blue Whale, Humpback Whale

GREAT WHALE TRIPLEHEADER. What’s that you say? Read on…

This is a photograph of a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) performing a peduncle throw (or “tail throw”, or “tail lob”). The man who taught me most of what I know about whales, friend and whale researcher Dr. Dan Salden, often referred to this behavior as a “peduncle throw” and that is the term I prefer to use but whale watching captains will call it all sorts of names. The whale pivots around its long pectoral fins, dips its rostrum (head) down and violently catapults its peduncle and fluke high out the water, throwing a mighty cascade of spray throughout the air. What a sight! I remember my first season working with Dan’s whale research team, seeing this behavior for the first time, and having him explain to me what he thought might be going on underwater that would motivate the whale to do such a thing. In this case the whale was apparently alone and had been doing it for some time. We saw the splashing from over a mile away and drove over to take a closer look. I never did see any other animals in the vicinity of this whale and could not figure out why it was breaching, peduncle throwing and tail slapping.

A humpback whale raises it fluke out of the water, the coast of Del Mar and La Jolla is visible in the distance, Megaptera novaeangliae

A humpback whale raises it fluke out of the water, the coast of Del Mar and La Jolla is visible in the distance.
Image ID: 27142
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Del Mar, California, USA

The campus of UCSD is seen high on the bluffs in the distance. When I was in college I would to gaze out the windows of those building during class, staring at the ocean and hang gliders that would fly past. The humpback remained surface active for a while, and later transitioned to fluke slapping and inverted tail lobs:

A humpback whale raises it fluke out of the water, the coast of Del Mar and La Jolla is visible in the distance, Megaptera novaeangliae

A humpback whale raises it fluke out of the water, the coast of Del Mar and La Jolla is visible in the distance.
Image ID: 27130
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Del Mar, California, USA

This humpback was just part of a rare GREAT WHALE TRIPLEHEADER, in which we shot photographs underwater of three different species of great whales: blue whales, humpback whales and fin whales.

It was quite a day to say the least. Here are a few of the non-humpbacks we saw that day. Check out the fin whale, his buddy can be seen in the distance just beyond him, identifiable by the lightly colored lower right side jaw that is characteristic of fin whales. Also check out the bizarre fluke on this blue whale, with the bluffs of Del Mar in the distance.

Fin whale underwater. The fin whale is the second longest and sixth most massive animal ever, reaching lengths of 88 feet, Balaenoptera physalus

Fin whale underwater. The fin whale is the second longest and sixth most massive animal ever, reaching lengths of 88 feet.
Image ID: 27597
Species: Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus

Blue whale fluking up (raising its tail) before a dive to forage for krill, La Jolla, California

Blue whale fluking up (raising its tail) before a dive to forage for krill.
Image ID: 27119
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Blue whale fluking up (raising its tail) before a dive to forage for krill, La Jolla, California

Blue whale fluking up (raising its tail) before a dive to forage for krill.
Image ID: 27122
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Fin whale underwater. The fin whale is the second longest and sixth most massive animal ever, reaching lengths of 88 feet, Balaenoptera physalus

Fin whale underwater. The fin whale is the second longest and sixth most massive animal ever, reaching lengths of 88 feet.
Image ID: 27594
Species: Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus

We finished the day with a great sunset of Mount Soledad on our way back to Mission Bay. One of those “top 10 days”.

Panorama of La Jolla, with Mount Soledad aglow at sunset, viewed from the Pacific Ocean offshore of San Diego

Panorama of La Jolla, with Mount Soledad aglow at sunset, viewed from the Pacific Ocean offshore of San Diego.
Image ID: 27086
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

International Conservation Photography Awards 2012

Environmental Problems, Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Art Wolfe hosts the biennial International Conservation Photography Awards (“ICP Awards”). One of my images was honored in the 2010 edition of the competition, so I decided to try again this year. My photograph of a young California sea lion entangled in monofilament fishing line, taken in the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve in Baja California, was selected in the “Natural Environment At Risk” category, which seems quite fitting given the competition is meant to highlight conservation and issues relating to the natural world. Thank you Art and ICP Awards! To see all the recognized images — and you should since there are some spectacular photos in this year’s competition — check out: http://icpawards.com/2012winners.php

California sea lion injured by fishing line, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion injured by fishing line
Image ID: 27419
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico