Whale Watching


I recently took a trip out on the California coast exclusively to go whale watching.  I don’t take this opportunity very often, at least not for the express purpose of whale watching, because I spend so much time on the water for scuba diving.  Often times, whales will appear while we are crossing the channel to dive at Catalina, and sometimes they will appear just off the coast when we are diving at the beach.  But this day, was dedicated to finding and photographing the whales that migrate past our coast annually.

We first came upon a small pod of fin whales.  This is not a common whale in California, but there are a few.  They are characterized by a tall dorsal fin.  Fin whales can get up to 90 feet long and are the second largest mammal, next to the blue whale.  They are enormous and yet their slender torpedo-like bodies glide gracefully through the water.

A Fin Whale comes up for air.

A Fin Whale comes up for air.

Since Fin Whales can hold their breath for a long time, we soon moved on, looking for other interesting sea creatures.  We soon came upon a pod of three Gray Whales, aka Knuckle-back Whales.  They are characterized by a bumpy back that looks like knuckles.  Gray whales are much smaller than Fin whales, getting to about 50 feet long.  They have gray and white mottling on their skin from scars or parasites that have dropped off.  They lack a dorsal fin and have flukes that measure around 9-10 feet across.

Flukes of a gray whale

Flukes of a gray whale

Here you can see the ridges on the whales back as it prepares to dive.

Here you can see the ridges on the whales back as it prepares to dive.

Last highlight of the day was a large playful pod of dolphins.  These I get to see regularly as they love to swim along the bow of a boat.  This particular boat had a viewing pod.  Although the photograph is a little unclear, it was fun to see these dolphins racing along under the boat.

Dolphins swimming along the bow of a boat

Dolphins swimming along the bow of a boat

In this image, a dolphin comes up for air while it’s companion is just under the surface.

A dolphin surfaces momentarily.

A dolphin surfaces momentarily.

A big thank you to Captain Dave’s Whale Watching Safari  for a fun day out on top of the water.  If you are ever in Dana Point, California, I would highly recommend their operation.  You can click on their name for a link to their website.

 

All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.

 

 

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What’s Buggin’ You?


The last few weeks our weather has turned a bit wintery and although I long to get back in the water to my “studio,” I have found an alternate that is almost as enticing.  I have always been fascinated by the little critters, especially some of the more unusual ones.  Happily, there are plenty of odd little bugs to photograph on land.  Here are some of my favorites:

Juvenile Praying Mantis

Juvenile Praying Mantis

I found this little praying mantis one day walking up my arm.  I had been outside thinning the peach tree, and I guess he hitched a ride.  I carefully put him back on the tree where he graciously posed for some very flattering portraits.

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Cairns Birdwing Caterpillar

Sometimes we get all creeped-out by insects.  It is hard to believe that the spikey-creepy-crawly caterpillar above becomes the beautiful Cairns Birdwing butterfly which is endemic to Australia.  These papilions can have a wingspan of up to 11 inches.  One of the photographs below is of a male, the other female.  Can you guess which one is which?

Cairns Birdwing Butterfly

Cairns Birdwing Butterfly

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 In contrast to the huge butterflies above, is this little velvet moth that was just over a quarter of an inch long.  It landed on my bathroom mirror one morning where it almost got clobbered by the flat of my hand until I saw it’s brilliant red wings and decided it was photogenic.  It stayed on the mirror all day, and finally flew away in the evening.

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Okay, so on to a REALLY creepy bug. The creature below is a walking stick.  Don’t ask how that thing eats with a mouth like that, because I have no idea.  He was about three inches long and moved slowly up the branch like he was stalking me.

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A Bumble Bee comes in for a landing

A Bumble Bee comes in for a landing

One of the most common fliers is the bumble bee.  They are surprisingly difficult to photograph.  That is partly because they are always moving, and partly because this photographer is wary of being stung.  These guys were busy collecting the first of this year’s pollen.

A Bee gathers pollen from a poppy

A Bee gathers pollen from a poppy

As I was photographing the flowers and bees, this little fly stopped by to rub his back legs together.  He only visited for a moment, but I caught him!

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The bug below is a common nuisance.  When I was a kid, we called them fire-bugs, but my dad called them Box Elder bugs.  He was right, that is the common name.  You have probably stepped on these outside your front door.

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Last but certainly not least; the creepiest of all creepers in my opinion, is the spider.  I believe this one still resides in Hana, Hawaii, guarding the seven sacred pools and protecting visitors from the horde of flying bugs that torment tourists.

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I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with the insect world.  While they fascinate me beyond reasonable measure, they also give me the heebie-jeebies and I wouldn’t want to find one crawling down my back.  Yet, I can’t help being visually stimulated by them.  How about you?