Most of the whales seen in the San Juan Islands are orcas as three pods known as the “Southern Residents” feed offshore from mid-April to early October. Whale watching boats keep to a mandated 200 meter exclusion zone around the pods – perhaps close enough to a ten-meter mammal.
San Juan Islands – Photo Tip

Don't use your camera as binoculars

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

San Juan Islands – Photo Tip Don't use your camera as binoculars

The reality of watching wildlife is that you will not see the animals up close and personal. Only by logging countless hours, building a shelter of sorts and teaming up with rangers or researchers who know the animals and their habits will you improve your chances of getting that exceptional photograph of wild animals.

Jochem Wijnands
Jochem Wijnands Founder / photographer

This is the art of wildlife photography. So, the next time you are on safari you should probably abandon all illusions about snapping pictures to rival those of dedicated wildlife photographers. Yet there are certainly things you can do to make your photos more distinctive and intriguing.

To use my orca photograph as an example, during a two-hour boat trip around the San Juan Islands, we spotted several of these magnificent creatures in the distance. It was tempting to zoom in as much as possible and make the animals the subject, using our cameras as binoculars.

But what if we zoomed out and deliberately included the spectacular scenery to make that our main focus? When I spotted the fishing boat I asked our captain to reposition us, hoping the orcas would pass between the two boats, with the Olympic Mountains as a dramatic backdrop.

When that happened, I had the orca in the natural habitat it has to share with humans.

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Orca whales are voluntary breathers which means they sleep with only half of their brain at one time, with the other half still alert to regulate breathing. They are usually seen near the surface, breathing and swimming in a pattern, and pods are known to breathe in unison – no one knows why. Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

NIKON D3S

Aperture
ƒ/16
Exposure
1/1000
ISO
1000
Focal
200 mm

Orca whales are voluntary breathers which means they sleep with only half of their brain at one time, with the other half still alert to regulate breathing. They are usually seen near the surface, breathing and swimming in a pattern, and pods are known to breathe in unison – no one knows why.

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