Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Monterey, California - Whale Watching, Dolphins, Sea Lions, the coastline and more

Last week, my wife and I decided to make the short drive to Monterey, California to spend the night and go whale watching. We looked online and saw that there were plenty of whale sightings right now, so we figured that it would be a fun excursion.

So we hopped in the car and drove along the California coastline.



Neither of us had ever been to McWay Falls (which is about an hour South of Monterey), so we made that our destination on the afternoon of day one. As we were driving there, we encountered a lot of fog and figured that we would not see anything when we arrived. But, even though it was not ideal photography conditions, it was still cool to see this pretty scene. Unfortunately, due to the wildfires that are burning nearby, most of the hiking trails (including the trails by McWay Falls) are closed right now. But we do plan one coming back, hopefully in clearer weather.


Here is my wife taking some photos with the Canon M3 mirrorless camera.

The next morning, it was whale watching time!

It was reported that the previous week had pretty rough seas, but we got lucky and only had small swells for the trip. But we did have overcast skies for the entire 4 hour outing, which yielded monochromatic images. But hey, there is nothing wrong with monochrome, and in some cases, I decided to remove all of the color and convert the photos to black and white.

We were lucky to see numerous Humpback, Fin and Blue whales.


The first whale that we came upon was a Humpback. I have photographed this species many times before, both in Monterey and in Hawaii. I know that when they arch their backs, they are making a deep dive, and their tail usually comes out of the water. I was ready to hit the shutter of my Canon 1D X Mark II to grab many frames of this occurrence.


For all of the photos in this blog post, I used my Canon 100-400mm lens. For this shot, I zoomed out to include the Blue whale and the boat. The Blue whale is the largest mammal on the planet, often weighing in at 150 tons and reaching lengths of 100 feet long! By zooming out, you can see how even a small portion of this whale is almost as big as the boat. To give you an idea of how big these creatures are, just their tongues weigh as much as an African elephant!


At one point, we saw two Blue whales side my side and it reminded me of my shooting synchronized swimming pairs in Rio a couple of weeks before. They were in perfect harmony as they swam along.


Here is a closer look at the back of a large Blue whale. It is surprising to see such a huge whale with such a tiny dorsal fin.


Here is a Humpback whale tale photographed from the side.


I liked this photos and converted it to B&W.


That is one large blow hole!


When looking at this photo, you might be thinking "Uh Jeff, you missed the whale in the photo!" But I took this photo to show you the smooth water that is left just after one of these large whales submerges under the surface of the water. These "footprints" help to pinpoint the location of the whales as they move from one spot to another.


As we made our way back towards the marina, we came across a small pod of Risso dolphins.


I did not get a great shot of them, which really killed me, because I love dolphins. If you look closely at this photo, you can see a baby dolphin next to it's mother (in the front, middle of the pack).


As we came back towards the harbor, we cruised along the rock wall and saw endless sea lion.



I liked this shot of the seagull flying over the sea lion.


This guy was just coming out of the water as we passed by.


This sea lion reminded my wife and I of our dog, who likes to lay down on our couch in a similar position.


Here is a grey pup swimming in the water beside our boat.


And this guy popped up in front of me as well.


I think these sea lion were having their own presidential debate, and it was a loud one.


After the boat returned to the dock, we had some lunch and then decided to walk along the coastline. I said to my wife "I will leave my camera behind and just walk with you", trying to be the good husband. But as we walked along the trail, and I saw all kinds of good shots, I had to run back to the car to get my camera. I just couldn't help myself. Annette sat down and waited for me to return.


We saw this squirrel hanging out on one of the nearby rocks, so I stooped down low to get a photo of it. As soon as I got down low, it started coming towards me, thinking I was one of those tourists that was going to feed it. Nope - not me.


We are so spoiled to live so close to the ocean and the amazing California coastline. We sometimes take it for granted. It really is a beautiful and special place.


As we walked back to our car, I saw these two other squirrels who were hanging out on the rocks. The sunlight (which was out over Monterey, but still not over the water) was perfect. I loved the separation of the squirrel and the deep blue water in the background. I shot this at f/5.6 using all of the 400mm range of the lens, which diffuses the background nicely.


This squirrel was on a rock just passed a bunch of ice plant. He too was looking out over the shoreline, so I got down low and took this photo.

Overall, we had a great little outing in Monterey, and are already planning our next visit there. If you love taking photos, this is a great place to visit. And for me, after spending a month at the Olympics, it was fun to relax and take photos at a slower pace. :)

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3 comments:

Sam Barker said...

Definitely a spot I'll have to check out. We usually visit Morro Bay a few times a year, but not since I've purchased a camera, so I'm excited for that trip. Crystal Cove, for the Christmas Tree Lighting, is another great spot!

Tom Gibson said...

Glad you enjoyed my hometown area. We live in Marina which is the first town you come to before Sand City etc....lots to see and photograph if you have the lens for whales and stomach for the boats.....which I do not. Beautiful sunny weather now but not so good for mid-day images. Would love to catch up with you if you make a trip down again. The winter is best for this area as the waves can be spectacular and there are some clouds :-) All the best, Tom tcgibson7@comcast.net

Unknown said...

Awesome shots as always! I have a question for you if this finds you in time. My wife, being as amazing as she is, scored us tickets for a whale watching tour to the Farallon Islands for my birthday. It's something I've wanted to do since moving to the west coast and naturally I would love to get some good photos myself. I will be renting a telephoto lens for my Canon t3i and was torn between the 70-200mm f2.8L and the 100-400 f4.5-5.6L. I know the crop sensor will add some extra length but was unsure if I would want/need up to 400mm or 640mm equivalent.. I would really appreciate your opinion on the matter if you have the time! Love you work (photos and video) and have learned so much from you and hope to continue to learn! My email is jrhphotography23@gmail.com thanks!