South Africa: Shooting Southern Right Whales

Walker Bay, South Africa   

A severe storm was approaching the small, seaside town of Hermanus, South Africa as I hopped onto a boat in the picturesque harbor of Walker Bay.  Knowing the best chance of seeing a Southern Right Whale up-close would be by boat I really did not have much choice in the matter (despite my apprehension).  And besides with the weather quickly deteriorating, I was rather certain there wouldn't be any more whale watching for the remainder of my trip. Considering this was the reason I made my way to Hermanus from Cape Town (2 hrs), I mustered the courage and braced myself for a rocky ride as we headed out into the bay. 

Fortunately, the ocean was kind to us for a good chunk of the time and I was lucky to see two males trying to win the heart of this beautiful female (below). This was by far the closest I came to any of the whales as she intentionally collided with the boat directly in front of me. With a thin metal bar as the only barrier separating me from the sea, the impact startled me! Everyone on board scrambled for a moment while we were reassured by the crew that this is quite common behavior for the females. It seems as though they enjoy using the boat as a form of protection from their relentless admirers. 

Southern Right Whale

These whales are very slow moving and friendly creatures.  As a result, they became known to fisherman as the "right whale" to hunt. Even though whale hunting has been banned for the past two decades, illegal hunting still continues making the southern right whale population of 3,000 an endangered species. Hermanus is a unique location in that females prefer the warmth and shelter of the bay for their newborns. And between the months of May and December with a little patience you will have no problem spotting them from shore. Despite the land-based possibilities, I wanted to get a little closer.  

Prior to the whale watching trip, I had heard consistently from several people to go with the widest lens I had available. Thanks to this sound advice, I had my16-35mm in place for this shot. This photograph was shot at the widest end, 16mm and would not have been possible with my longer lenses. Although, there were many shots missed (and frustrations) as a result of my lens' limitations I am pleased with the decision.

Storm clouds rolling in to Hermanus, South Africa


Outdoor Photog of the Year Competition

Having had seven images (below) shortlisted for the Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2014 Competition was a lovely honour. Each of the selected images were submitted to the UnderExposed category which happens to be new to the competition this year and strictly for underwater images. There were some beautiful images across all categories. But the winner for the UnderExposed category was a stunning over-under image of a humpback whale by Chris Parry.  Well done, Mr. Parry! Having the chance to dive with these magnificent creatures must have been a great privilege.


Beneath the Waves | the Year Ahead

For the first time, I have put together a calendar with some of my underwater images. With twenty-fifteen around the corner I thought now is as good a time as ever to share this. The images included in the calendar were taken in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean and consist of wide variety of marine life. The calendar is available for purchase at RedBubble.com 

May the year ahead be full of health and happiness!


Holiday Blues

A couple of years back I had the opportunity to join a group of divers from Singapore on an adventure to Thailand. It was the week of Christmas 2012 when we set sail for the Similan Islands, via liveaboard. Let me just say, sinking beneath the waves on Christmas day was certainly one of the coolest gifts this diver could conjure up.

But generally, not a whole lot of diving takes place at this time of year if you happen to be one of the many who live in a landlocked location. Traveling at this time of year (for whatever reason) isn't practical. The cost of flights become ridiculous, the airport congestion is a nightmare, and of course, there are those festive holiday parties you don't want to miss. For those that do have a chance to get in the water and dive in December, I envy your persistence.

While in recent years we have remained at home for the holidays, I have tried to come up with ways to keep the ocean nearby. If you are like me and going through diving withdrawal here are a few ideas to lift your spirits.  

Marine Inspired Christmas Ornaments:


Inspiring Preservation of the Arctic with Arts & Science

Expedition - August 2015

ELYSIUM ARTISTS FOR THE ARCTIC is a project that combines the expertise of some of the world’s top scientists, artists, and explorers to create a multi-faceted interpretation of the Arctic. Artists for the Arctic hopes to inspire greater appreciation, understanding, and love for this critically important part of our planet, while drawing attention to the impacts of climate change. This icy ecosystem is regarded as one of the most enchanting wilderness regions of our planet, yet volatile and under severe threat from the warming of the world’s climate. This expedition promises to deliver the most awe-inspiring and stunning visual representation ever seen of the Arctic. The sights, sounds, and science captured by the Elysium Team will inspire ways to preserve and protect life at the top of the world through art, education, and outreach. 

THE MISSION: The Explorer Team’s mission is to encapsulate the splendor of the Arctic through the sights and sounds of this enthralling region, into one exquisite volume, a film and exhibitions around the world in eight major cities in 2016-2017. Elysium's science team will record and study the impacts of disappearing sea ice in the Arctic, inspiring, educating, and engaging the public about the wonders of the Arctic and its importance to our global climate. Through cross-cultural dialogue and educational outreach programs, Artists for the Arctic aims to exchange knowledge with Inuit groups and Elders about their home and the animals that live there. These first-hand accounts will be broadcast through a series of exhibitions worldwide, global social networks, and media channels, inspiring conservation for the diverse life of the Arctic as well as drawing attention to the impacts of climate change, ocean change, and disappearing sea ice. Only with your support will we be able to spread this critical message around the globe. You can have a direct impact on the way the world sees and understands the Arctic, and consequently on how we protect this precious polar region in the near future.

Elysium Artists for the Arctic is a carbon neutral expedition funded by Ocean Geographic Society.
WHAT WE NEED:  We need to maximize our time in the Arctic, and what we can accomplish will directly depend on how much money is raised in the next 2 months. Our goal for this campaign is to raise $350,000.  
We projected $80, 000 to bring in specialized scientific equipment: Open source ROVs with HD cameras, temperature and salinity instruments, mobile aquarium and scientist to bring in the video plankton recorder, laboratory and plankton sampling equipment. We'll need $85,000 to create and produce the Elysium limited edition book and movie, $25,000 for the Elysium Arctic Report,  $20,000 to produce the full soundtrack, and $150,000 to transport and curate exhibition for eight cities. 
Please consider donating to this one of a kind project.  Click on the Polar Bear below and you'll be redirected to the Indiegogo Campaign Site to learn more about the interesting rewards for getting involved:


Pre-Expedition DrySuit Orders - Santi Headquarters

In late August, early September my husband and I took a short flight from Wroclaw, Poland (where we currently live) to the Tri-City up along the Baltic Sea.  We had always heard great things about the region however after living in Poland for a year and a half we somehow hadn't made it up there.  With Santi as one of the equipment sponsors for an upcoming expedition to the Arctic, and with their headquarters so close by in Gdynia, we decided to make our way north to personally place our dry suit orders.  Flying in on Saturday afternoon and leaving Monday evening we had roughly 48 hours to see the highlights of the three cities (Sopot, Gdansk, & Gdynia) and get fitted for our first drysuits. It was a hectic but exciting trip!
We had a hotel booked in Sopot since it is situated between Gdansk and Gdynia, however quickly realised it is the heart and soul of the Tri-City.  The salty air, long expanse of the sandy shore and wide array of seaside restaurants was a nice break from landlocked Wroclaw.  With Europe's longest boardwalk just outside of our hotel, I must admit it felt as if I was back at home along the Eastern Seaboard.  The three cities were definitely worth the visit and from what we learned there are some really cool wreck dives along the coast.  Since the Baltic isn't known for its warm temperatures we would first need some drysuits before getting involved in that.

Monday morning, once inside Santi's headquarters we were immediately impressed with both the hospitality and layout of the office/workshop.  The atmosphere was very welcoming and also visually intriguing.  Highly saturated diving images and graffiti art were splashed across the white walls while a large assortment of dive gear seemed to be calling out to us.  

The first order of business was the measurements and there were many.  This was our first time ordering dry suits and we were probably a bit too particular but they are really too expensive to have mistakes made.  It was an interesting and rather warm experience as we layered ourselves in to thermals, heated vests, under suits and then the outer shells.  Surely I would be warm in the Arctic but once everything was on I struggled to understand how exactly I was supposed to move; let alone dive and photograph in such an alien environment.  If you'd like to learn more about the upcoming expedition, Artists for the Arctic; click here:  http://www.elysiumepic.underwaterartists.com  

Where it all Happens ~ The Dry Suit Factory (above)