I was downtown chatting with a few friends when another friend joined us. He was very excited! He said he had just come off of the water and had come across a pod of Orcas! I immediately got excited myself and asked where he had seen them and how many? He said there were 10 and they were heading around Meares island!
I had to go around to 4 different whale watching companies to find out where they were exactly at that moment? I finally found out their location and knew where they were heading. They were in the north and about to go south around Meares island,so I got all my gear together and headed out! I decided to go eastward and then turn northward to intercept!
I figured they’d be in Fortune Channel by the time I caught up to them and sure enough that’s exactly where I found them! The best way to find a whale is to watch for slow moving boats but because of the pandemic there were no Whale watching boats trailing behind. So the only way I could spot them was to keep turning my head from side to side like a human radar looking for the blows!
When they surface they blow which puts a fine mist up into the air. That blow will “hang” and give away their position BUT If it’s windy (which seems to be more often then not) the wind will sweep away that blow concealing their location! I’ve had entire pods go right underneath me and not seen them at all! So If you go looking for whales hope that it’s a calm day or just look for the whale watching boats trailing behind.
I stayed with them for over 2 hours. The light wasn’t great but hey……they were Orca’s! One of them spy hopped (coming up vertical) to see what was going on around but because I was moving fast to catch up, I missed the shot.
This pod is known as the T069’s. It’s a category system for identification of Orca’s. This pod loves to come around Tofino! They are Transients,meaning they eat warm blooded animals,Seals, Lions etc The other group of Orca’s are called the Residents (Southern) and they eat salmon exclusively.
The Souther Residents are few in numbers (76?) because humans are eating all of their food! They eat just about nothing but Chinook salmon which is also a prized salmon for anglers. Many Resident Orca’s have died because of malnutrition over the years! Researchers can tell when they are starving because of the shape of their head. They get what is called “peanut head”. The fat reservers deplete creating this odd shaped head.
The only way to stop this group from dying out is to limit the salmon catch of all fisheries but as per usual so many fisherman cry foul! They want money in their pockets and don’t give two shits about any damn Orca’s!
Homo Sapiens are a species that is unsustainable. Until we can limit OUR numbers and live within Natures bounds we are destined to fail and thus perish.
The bull caught a Harbour Seal! The family would come in and take turns feeding. Even the Gulls and Eagles take turns as a Harbour Seal has a high fat content to protect them from the cold. That fat is lighter then water and so floats to the surface. When you see Gulls massing over the water and diving in that’s a defiant sign that there was a kill.
When following Orca’s it’s proper to follow from behind and to the side. I was the only boat following them. We were heading southward in Fortune Channel about to pass through Dawley pass. Dawley pass is a narrow passage between Fortune Channel and Tofino inlet. It’s probably about 500 feet across.
I was on the right hand side and decided to hug the rocks as I passed with them through Dawley. I was only 10 feet away from the rocks when the Matriarch came up right beside me!! I just about crapped myself! Then to make sure I did, another Orca breached right beside me as well! I put the engine in neutral and just held my breath! I know Orca’s are very gentle creatures and very intelligent creatures! I knew they would not harm me but that still didn’t calm me! Both Orca’s sounded and joined the rest of the pod going through Dawley.
I exhaled and wondered what the hell that was all about? It took a few seconds but I spotted the reason off to my immediate right…….It was a Harbour Sea! It had hauled Itself out onto the rocks to stay out of an Orca tummy! It must have seen or heard the Orca’s (they are a chatty bunch at times). I could clearly see it was trembling and with good reason!
I suspect the rest of the pod must have caught it’s friend as there was lots of splashing and tail slapping! An indication of a kill.
I was able to get close to this lucky Seal cause there was no way it was going to be going back into the water any time soon! I’m calling this guy “Lucky”.
It took me a few minutes to figure it out but I do believe I accidentally saved this little guy’s life!! By me keeping so close to the rocks when the Orca’s came calling my boat was inadvertently between them and the Seal. There really was nothing stopping an Orca from lunging out of the water and grabbing this Seal ……except my boat. As I already mentioned, Orca’s are very intelligent. I think they knew that If they had lunged at this Seal they most likely would have hit me as well. So they took a pass and said to the Seal…..eat ya later!
This might be an older Harbour Seal as I believe it has either a cataract or glaucoma in it’s left eye?
In this shot the Bull was inverted. A Orca is about 25 feet long and weighs in at 5 tons. It also has one of the largest penis’s in the animal kingdom at 8 feet. The Bull (T069C) must of had sex with his partner? How do I know……….when he rolled over he was smoking a cig.
Researchers have found the best way to ID a Orca is to look at it’s “saddle patch”. The saddle patch is at the base of the dorsal fin. Each is as unique as a fingerprint. They also show unique scaring. Sometimes chunks are taken out of the dorsal making them easier to ID.
Light is a critical element for me! Finding the right subject for the right light is hard! I spend half my time searching and the other half shooting.
In the above pictures we have the same subject but different lighting. The upper is warm while the ones below are cool. I only go out If I think the light/clouds are going to be in the ball park. Once out, I roll the dice and see what comes up? No matter what the light is,I try to make it work. I take advantage of what Mother Nature serves up.
The last shot is of a Heron with the moon in behind. Finding a Heron perched right on the very top of a tree when the moon is out doesn’t happen every day. Having said that,I do not consider this shot to be the best. I would of preferred to have the Heron bathed in golden light. Gold light would show more detail in the contrast and colour! Unfortunately by the time I found this Heron the sun had already set! So I had to rolled with it and shot silhouettes! (10% of something is better then 100% of nothing)
So when I go out on a evening shoot I’m searching more for the light then the subject. Great light makes bad subjects better and great subjects look excellent!