Photography Tips for Alaskan Humpback Whales

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The wildlife present throughout Alaska is unmatched in its beauty, both on land and sea. Your primary goal for a wildlife tour in Alaska might involve a number of different animals or even physical location, and one of the top creatures people come here to see is the gorgeous, regal humpback whale.

At Pybus Point Lodge, our wildlife tours include a huge range of different viewing options, from locations like waterfalls, icebergs and glaciers to numerous animals such as bears, orcas, seals, sea lions and yes, humpback whales. Many people remember their calming, peaceful encounters with humpback whales for the rest of their lives, and one ideal method for ensuring this is by taking some great photographs when they're in view. Here are some general tips we can offer to photographers, both amateur and professional, for getting the perfect shot of a humpback whale or other whale species.

Importance of Patience

While we'll get into some more distinct specifics in a bit, the first theme we wanted to go over here is a broad one: Patience. All whales, including humpbacks, are independent creatures who can be elusive in some cases, and they can move in a variety of speeds at times as well.

If you capture a picture that's not exactly what you were hoping for, don't give up on it, especially if the whale is visible mostly from one side and has its head turned to another angle. Humpback whales are incredibly social creatures, so there's always the chance they'll return to the exact same spot, or even move in a way that causes them to be photographed from a different angle.

One important resource here will be your tour guide, who will have extensive knowledge on whale behavior and locations. If you can, get a couple photos of the whale as it's initially swimming past, then ask your guide about where he or she thinks it may reappear.

Know Humpback Whale Behavior

A big part of whaling photography involves understanding the general behavior of the whale species in question. For instance, humpback whales are known to dive deep down into the ocean as they build up power and speed to launch themselves out of the water -- if you're looking for one of these stunning photographs, you should be aware of this behavior. They will generally spend an average of about seven consecutive minutes underwater before launching.

Another behavior to note is that humpbacks are typically found in pods of a few or more individuals. Unless you can verify a location where there's only one humpback whale, your best bet for getting great photographs will be with more than one of them showing up at once.

Proper Camera Settings

Like with any other form of specialized photography, capturing humpback whales involves a need for utilization of the right camera settings. Because humpback whales primarily spend their time underwater, you'll want to set your camera's shutter speed to around 1/1000th of a second. Unless the light source is incredibly powerful, you should also be able to keep your ISO level relatively low -- between 200 and 400 should work well enough.

If you're interested in photographing the whale as it's launching out of the water, you'll want to be sure your camera is set with a fast shutter speed as well. Most cameras at this point should be able to snap pictures at about 1/1000th or faster even when inside a waterproof casing, but if not, try setting the underwater timer on your remote so that you have time to switch between shooting modes.

Zoom Factors

Should you or should you not use zoom features when attempting to photograph humpback whales? The general answer here is no, at least when utilizing digital zoom -- this is the type found on smartphones and other lower-quality cameras, and magnifies using a sensor, causing losses in quality the further in you zoom.

However, if you're utilizing high-quality camera equipment with optical zoom, this might not be the case. Optical zoom uses the actual lens of a camera to magnify the image in question without losing any quality, and it can sometimes be used for quality humpback whale photos.

If your camera only has digital zoom, we recommend waiting to take photographs until you're close enough to do so without any zoom. This will prevent image grain and related issues from diminishing the quality of your final product.

For more on how to properly capture humpback whales with photography, or to learn about any of our wildlife tours, fishing vacations or other packages, speak to the staff at Pybus Point Lodge today.

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REVIEWS

65% OF OUR GUESTS ARE RETURN CUSTOMERS

Discover why people like you can’t stop talking about Pybus Point Lodge. More than 30 years ago, Pybus Point Lodge opened as a simple fishing camp, drawing a devoted following in spite of basic accommodations. With new owners and experienced captains and crew, our corner of Alaska has become an unbeatable all-inclusive fishing and eco-tourism resort.

Andrea Tate

Incredible Experience!

Pybus Point Lodge has some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. I mean absolutely breathtaking! In addition to the amazing fishing, I hiked to a beautiful secluded lake, soaked in some hot pots, saw several waterfalls, went whale watching, saw bears and all kinds of wildlife and marine life. As a photographer, photographing a wedding under a waterfall will remain a highlight of my life.

Shirley Johnson

Pybus Point Lodge - WOW!

We had the best time! This was our first visit to Pybus, but it definitely will not be our last. The stunning scenery, amazing fishing experience, and the joy of meeting new friends – all outstanding! We did not want to leave!!! If you are thinking about this trip – don’t think any more, just book it. You will not regret it!!!

Sharon Hedding

Trip of a Lifetime!

We had such an amazing time the staff was so wonderful and the lodge was fantastic! capt Joe was so helpful and always doing what ever he could do to make each day special. a special thank you to both Scott and Jody for taking the time to make us feel like family. can't wait to go back next year

Jason Nielsen

Wonderful and Magical Place

We had an amazing business retreat to Pybus Point Lodge.  Everything was top notch... the fishing, the staff, the boat captains, the food, the accommodations, and especially the scenery.    I really liked that Pybus took care of everything from start to finish. Chef John is an amazing cook. We had delicious hot meals the entire trip.  The cabins were amazing and very comfortable.  The fishing was awesome and that’s coming from a guy that doesn’t fish that much.

Brandon Foote

We brought home 100lbs of fish!

My wife and I spent a week at Pybus Point this Summer. We had a beautiful, private room overlooking the bay and our own new, ensuite, private bathroom. What an amazing place for couples to get away together. We set our own breakfast time, met our boat captain after, fished the day along, and returned to clean up and enjoy a nice dinner at the restaurant. Next time Alaska is on the trip list, Sherrie and I will go together, and it will be to Pybus Point!

Kent Danjanovich

Fun in Alaska

This was my first trip to Pybus Point. I stayed in one of their new cabins. The accommodations were incredible, the view onto the bay in the mornings was stunning. I loved the staff and the food was really very good. All of this and they have new boats to take you out onto fairly calm waters to fish. The fishing guides were great. Overall a great experience. Definitely going back.

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