Humpback Whales in Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga 2016 - Cassie JENSEN
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In The Shallows

In The Shallows

"What a sight to see this Heat Run. We finally had sun, but the visibility was poor and milky. We saw a group of 6 whales from the surface and attempted a few drops to see them. It's incredible that such large animals can actually be difficult to spot unless you are close. 6 turned into 8 underwater where they appeared from the fog in a massive display of gentle power in such shallow water I could have swam down to touch the coral below.
I never understood just how difficult it is to photograph whales until I experienced it underwater for myself. It's important to note that a Heat Run is especially challenging... you really only have a 15-20 second window to photograph them before they move on. Talk about an adrenaline rush when you have to swim head on into a group of whales that weigh 35 tons each, find them (which can actually be difficult, suprisingly!), set up a shot that's in focus and gets the whole body of each whale in the picture (preferably separated from each other), with none of your dive buddies in the photo! I explain this because it is a wonderful feeling when you are in the water, surrounded by such beauty, and you are able to capture a moment in time where you feel so small... and yet accepted into the group as they swim directly at you and turn just in time to glide past and watch. Look you in the eye. It stirs feelings in your core that you never knew you had."

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