Family Happening – Whale Watching Fun

I took Ben, Destiny and Yahir to the Ocean Institute a few weeks ago. It was so much fun I ended up enrolling for a year-long family membership. Privileges include members-only excursions on the R/V Sea Explorer.  We took advantage of that perk this weekend with a whale watching trip. The R/V stands for Research Vessel and, based on the knowledgeable staff onboard, it’s clear they use it for that as well as fun excursions.

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Before we set off we were treated to Captain Mike Bursk. He  shared stories and facts from his years of experiences with the California Gray Whale. He presented a 45 minute slide show filled with facts and photos of the Gray Whale. He also suggested we’d be lucky to see a Gray Whale. The peak migration to Alaska had occurred a few weeks earlier.

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While he was ultimately proven correct it didn’t matter. We had fun onboard as evidenced by the smiles. It got a bit chilly but we were prepared for that.

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We may not have seen a Gray Whale but we saw plenty of dolphins – both common and bottle nose varieties. The dolphin above is a common dolphin – easily distinguishable by the light/dark colorations.

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They rode alongside the boat so it was difficult to capture a photo from the preferred angle but – there were plenty of splashes that led to of screeches and smiles from the kids.

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Of course Captain Bursk had the right solution to the photo angle. A bit further along we came across a grouping of bottlenose dolphins. They may not have the pretty colorations but they sure know how to have fun in the boat wake. Captain Bursk stopped the boat and then gunned it for several minutes. He had told us what to expect so I was set up to capture these terrific photos.

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There were so many great shots of the bottlenose dolphins. This really exercised the autofocus features of my new Canon 5D Mark III and – I’m thrilled to report – it performed flawlessly.

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We did have the pleasure of spotting two fin whales. Captain Bursk informed us that fin whales are the second largest animal on the planet, second only to the blue whale. He estimated this one was 55 feet long. Blue whales can reach 90 feet in length and weigh 150 tons (300,000 lbs.).

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We passed by a bouy on the way back with some cute baby seals – lots of ooh’s and aah’s from both kids and adults.

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On our way back to the harbor I took the opportunity to make some portraits. Here we see Rebecca and Ben chilling on deck as a sailboat passed nearby.

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Destiny borrowed Yahir’s XMAS present/camera and had fun taking pictures of me while I took her picture. I can see we have another photographer in the family.

The ocean swells were quite high and at some locations were breaking over the break water. The stormy sky just added to the drama.

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I grabbed this photo as we approached the dock. The Ocean Institute building is in the background.

Everyone had a great time and Captain Bursk gave us tips on when to return to see the playful, photogenic blue whales. The kids are already anxious for that summer event.

Be sure to join us for our next photographic adventure. In the meantime, check back for our weekly Tuesday Photo Tips. Better yet – be updated automatically when we post Road Trips or Photo Tips by “friending” our Facebook site.

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