8 Tips for Getting that Perfect Whale Snap

Tips for capturing the perfect whale photo

Seeing a Sperm Whale for the first time can be very exciting, and also very distracting when trying to take the perfect shot! Here are our 8 tips for securing some whale memories, including the infamous whale tail snap!

1. KEEP YOUR GEAR PROTECTED

When whale watching by boat, we never know what Mother Nature might throw at us in terms of the oceans swell. It’s super important to keep your photography gear secure, keep that camera strap around your neck and when you’re not getting snap happy with your phone, store it in a zipped up pocket. No one wants to be diving overboard for their dropped iPhone!

2. SOMETIMES ZOOMING IN ISN'T THE BEST OPTION

It can be tempting to overuse your zoom feature in order to make sure you get those close up shots that show all of the whales’ unique markings and scars, but sometimes this isn’t recommended. We’ve found that it can be equally as rewarding to take the long shot and then crop the photo in the editing phase to position the photo exactly how you’d like it.

3. SHUTTER SPEED IS KEY

A high shutter speed can sometimes be what separates those Insta worthy photos from your trash can. Many cameras now allow you to adjust the shutter speed without negatively impacting the focus and exposure.  A good rule of thumb is to never let the shutter speed get lower that 1/2000s if you want to counteract the movements of the boat and whale.

4. COMPARISON

Sperm Whales are absolutely huge! They tend to be about the same length as our whale watching vessels, that’s a whopping 18 metres! Because Kaikōura is such marine mecca, often you’ll have seabirds or, on the special occasion, dolphins in proximity to the whale that you can use for size comparison. Putting people inside your shot or even holding something in front of the camera mix up your standard photos and let people gage the size.

5. DON’T EXPECT THE BOAT TO GET CLOSER

There are specific rules about how close tour boats can get to whales. Here in Kaikōura, boats remain 50 meters away. Whales may well come closer to check out the boat, but we like to give them room to breathe and re-oxygenate without encroaching on their space.

6. UNDERSTANDING WHALE BEHAVIOUR – THE SPOUT SHOT

If you’re trying to get a shot of the Sperm Whale’s spout, then count the seconds between blows so you can anticipate the next one. The blow is a noisy, single stream that rises 3-6 meters above the surface on a 45-degree angle. Sperm Whales tend to blow every 10-20 seconds or so.

Whale blowing water

7. UNDERSTANDING WHALE BEHAVIOUR – THE TAIL SHOT

If you’re looking or that iconic fluke shot, then you’ll have to be ready as this opportunity only comes round once when the Sperm Whale is diving! Flukes are usually lifted very high out of the water before a whale begins its deep dive. Our sea crew will give you verbal warning when it looks like this dive is about to occur but sometimes Sperm Whales are cheeky and don’t give us any warming, so make sure you’re ready!

Whale tail, Kaikoura NZ

8. DON’T FORGET TO ENJOY THIS TRULY OTHERWORLDLY EXPERIENCE

Yes, there is a such thing as too many photos. And sometimes getting behind the camera means that you forget to be present in the moment and don’t quite appreciate what’s right in front of you. So make sure that you put your camera down at some point and immerse yourself in the experience of seeing these astounding mammals in their natural habitat. Breathe in the fresh air, feel the sea spray on your face and listen to the world’s biggest toothed mammal breathe in harmony with the lapping of the waves. 

Whale tail, Kaikoura NZ

ROAD ACCESS UPDATE

There is a possibility of short delays with it being 30km/hour through parts of the route. The full rebuild of the highway will continue in 2018. Check the NZTA website for road updates before traveling. INLAND ROUTE 70 IS OPEN 24/7.

ORGANISED TRANSPORT OPTIONS FROM CHRISTCHURCH

Hasslefree ToursCanterbury Leisure Tours & Kaikoura Express have daily services from Christchurch to Kaikōura with a return service from Christchurch. Kiwi Experience now have the option of a day tour out of Christchurch for their travellers. Intercity Bus also provides a bus service between Christchurch and Kaikoura return.

Progress on the work being done on the roads can be found on the dedicated Kaikoura Earthquake Response page provided by the team at NZTA. This page is updated weekly on Fridays. Work is also underway on the railway network, please be aware and take care when using rail crossings.