Whether you’re rocking a point-and-shoot camera or a sophisticated piece of digital mastery (DSLR), getting an unforgettable pic of a Southern Right Whale is easier than one would think. With its famous “champagne air” – and often, crisp and clear blue skies – Hermanus does more than its fair share in ensuring that your photographs have that picturesque backdrop.
- The Equipment
If you’re using a point-and-shoot then you’re pretty much set for the trip. However, if you’re using a more sophisticated DSLR then keep in mind that the boat is permitted for close encounters and at times you could be just metres away from the whales and therefore a well-varied, single lens (such as a 75 – 300mm) is usually the best choice.
- The Settings
If you’re not too familiar with your camera’s settings then use the Outdoor or Action mode. These options give you crisp, clear photos at a very high shutter speed . For those who prefer the manual functions of their camera, try to set the shutter speed at around 1/1000th of a second, with an ISO of around 400. White Balance can be set to auto but the focus is up to your discretion. For most, a centre-weighted, auto-focus point is preferable as most shoot with centred focus.
- The Motion of the Ocean
Try using the grid option on your camera’s display to ensure a straight horizon while on the moving sea. However, try not to look through the viewfinder or the display for too long a time, as this can possibly cause seasickness.
You should be scanning the water and be ready to click at any moment.
It is a good idea to have a strap for your camera that you can either attach to your wrist or put around your neck, so that it is always nearby as you should always have a free hand to hold onto the railings on the boat.
- To Zoom or Not to Zoom
With any lens, it’s best to keep it zoomed out as the stability is greater and it becomes easier to scan the horizon. From there, a quick turn of the lens or – in the case of a point-and-shoot – a quick push of a button gets you a close up of our large friends.
- What to Expect
It’s always best to keep a constant eye out for activity and your finger on the trigger. Also, feel free to ask the crew about where to stand on the boat for the best shots and listen out for the guides prompts, as the crew usually spot the whales and know what they’re about to do before anyone else does!
- Remember to charge your battery beforehand and ensure that your memory card is clear – the last thing you want is for the battery to drain too quickly or to run out of space! That being said, don’t be shy with taking photos; you never know when you might snap that perfect pic.
- Leave the tripod at home – it won’t help much on the moving boat.
- Due to the reflection on the water, a polarizing filter can work wonders to remove highlights from the water’s surface, giving you a clearer shot of what’s underneath.
- You won’t need to take video footage. Southern Right Charters has a videographer on board to capture your whale watching trip in motion.
- Don‘t obsess too much about getting all the shots from all the angles. Often times the mind takes the best picture!