It was about 30 minutes after we had pulled out of Seward harbor that the captain of the boat first cut his engines down to a quiet nothing. We had been heading south into Resurrection Bay when he noticed a pod of Killer Whales nearby. We were, of course, dripping with excitement. We expected to see some Killer Whales on this excursion, and right on cue they made themselves visible.
At first, we would see puffs of spray as the whales surfaced for air. There were several off in the distance, and we strained to see something that was recognizable as a Killer Whale. Occasionally we would see something that suggested that telltale black-and-white pattern, but the distance made it hard for me to connect what my eyes were seeing with what my imagination and eagerness wanted to see.
But then there was a closer puff of spray. Much closer.
I do not know how many Killer Whales were out there, but now we had at least one that was fairly close to the boat. I suspect there were several. The captain explained that they were likely feeding on salmon. With the boat's engines off it was super quiet. We just floated, and everyone on the boat stood and watched, not saying a word. And then, when one of the whales surfaced and cleared its blowhole, that sound would punctuate the silence and would carry over the distance of the water. We just floated and watched and ooohed and ahhhhed as those whales repeatedly surfaced and dove in the vicinity of the boat.
It did not occur to me prior to seeing these whales that it might be difficult to take a photograph of them as they came up for air. When they were underwater, they were invisible. When they did come up for air, your first clue was that sound of them exhaling. So when I heard that sound, I would whip around, aim my camera, trust the auto focus and AI Servo mode on my camera, and take a bunch of pictures. For me, this was a high effort, low reward approach.
Then I started to notice that several of the breaching whales were staying in the same general area. So I started to ignore all of the other whales that were around the boat, and instead focused on that one area. And my luck improved.
At first I only got a dorsal fin here and there.
But then I was finally looking at the right place at the right time. I had my camera up and ready to shoot when one of the whales surfaced hard in pursuit of some tasty little fish.
Wow! We were only 30 minutes into this eight hour trip and already I had seen (and managed to photograph) something that I will never forget.