Humpback whale encounter. Cetaceans in yo' face!

The ocean is so fickle. Yesterday, the sky was black with Cape gannets, and our zodiac had a twenty-dolphin escort for nearly the entire day (a mere twenty among the hundreds around us). The action was really great as we gunned through the surf out of the valley, but we were not able to actually jump on any of it. Most of the action was in the muddy, no-vis area close to shore, and a nice, stable bait ball we found out in open water dissipated at the moment we finished suited up. All of this action was against the reports we've been hearing, but that's the way it goes. After all, we don't really care of the main shoal is near; all that matters is that there is good action.

school of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) plus an oceanic
black-tip shark (Charcharhinus limbatus) off in the distance

As is typical, the action thinned out as the morning progressed. We nearly called it a day because of the strength of the wind, but as we moved closer to shore and away from the mouth of the valley (wind tunnel!) we were able to find relatively calm water. We randomly fell off of the boat around some sharks and a pod of dolphins (on snorkel), and after awhile, we happened upon a small humpback whale at the surface. It was just gently bobbing up and down while breathing shallowly.

The whale was not a big one and was probably just under 30' long. He was hanging upside down motionless much like a singer would, except that there was no accompanying song to be heard.

a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) hangs out

whale tail!

After a few minutes, the whale started to move again. His head swung gracefully upward, and I quickly realized that the guy was on track to come up right under me! I finned away as fast as I could and just managed to get out of the way before turning around to snap some pictures.

oh... hello, mr. whale!

I shot until the oncoming whale filled the frame and then had a random thought. Things usually seem to be further away when looking through the viewfinder while using a wide-angle lens, a fact that we sometimes use to hide from overwhelming action (i.e. a photographer's version of sticking one's head in the sand). So when I looked up, I saw this whale's head right in front of my face. The whale blew and then start to move forward with a bit more enthusiasm. I turned, swam back quickly for 3-4 seconds, and then turned again to shoot another photo. Giles told me that it was at this point that he thought I been hit by the whale. :)

I also have lots of frames that consist only of surface froth

I can't be certain that the whale wouldn't have just investigated closely before turning away, but when an object this big approaches you, the urge to get out of the way is pretty strong.

whales are cool

After twenty minutes or so, Drew showed up on scuba. Whale promptly left. We're still giving Drew shit for that one. :)

Oh yeah -- there were also schools of common dolphin swimming around, but I wasn't able to get them in the shots.

All images shot with Canon 1Ds Mk II, Seacam housing, Ikelite DS-125 strobes, Sigma 20mm/1.8 lens.