2 Comments | Report
mlorenekimura January 12, 2017
did she need help to turn around or did she figure it out on her own
chriswhittier May 31, 2017
Sorry I didn't see this before- they eventually turned around and got back out to the ocean.
Doloresallanson January 16, 2018
So glad there was a happy ending. Congratulations on your capture.

'Dawn' in the Sacramento

In 2007 a humpback whale mother, who came to be known as 'Delta,' and her large calf 'Dawn' (pictured) took a wrong turn in ...
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In 2007 a humpback whale mother, who came to be known as 'Delta,' and her large calf 'Dawn' (pictured) took a wrong turn in San Francisco Bay on their northerly migration up the Pacific Coast and mistakenly ended up 100 miles up the Sacramento River.
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Behind The Lens

I shot this from a boat in an area of the Sacramento River known as the Bulls Head Channel. It's just north of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge that links those small cities. My wife was working as part of the team responsible for trying to drive this whale, known as Dawn, and her mother, Delta, back down the River, across San Francisco Bay and back out to the ocean where they belong. They had ventured into SF Bay to feed as whales sometimes do and then mistakenly headed directly north as their normal migration navigation tells them to, but which directed them up the Sacramento River instead of the Pacific Coast.
It was just before 2 PM towards the end of May so a very high and bright sun was blazing through the East Bay haze.
Shooting anything outdoors in the middle of the day is almost never optimal and this day was no different- though obviously I couldn't control that. We'd located the whales a few hours earlier and though they were headed back down the River they kept pausing near the big bridges- perhaps becuase of the shadow or the noise or vibrations?
I shot this handheld (from a rocky dingy!) with a Canon 5D and Canon 100-400 f/4.5 L zoom lens and obviously no flash.
I was mostly just tagging along and unofficially there to try to document the team's effort to move the whales back down the River and also their successful effort to dart the whales with drugs to treat a skin infection they seemed to acquire from the unsalted (and not terribly clean) river water. I wasn't driving the dingy so had no control over my position and the whales were very unpredictable in where they happened to surface every few minutes. They often swam very long distances between breaths and usually in no predictable direction. With all that, I obviously was a bit lucky just to catch them surfacing for a good shot and in this case the alignment with the industrial chemical factory in the background was unplanned- though there are many like this along the river.
I was zoomed out very far on this shot (285 mm) so cropped down to about 1/6 of the original frame to get this image. With the harsh lighting and haziness I adjusted the tones a bit more than I normally do but tried to stay true to the scene.
In my camera bag
I typically carry just my 5D- now a MkIVI- with grip and 2-4 extra batteries and one telephoto zoom lens, either this Canon 100-400 L or a Tamron 150-600 for shooting wildlife. Most days I prefer to be light but sometimes carry my old 5D (or 20D if I want built in flash) as back-up. When I'm out to shoot wildlife I don't even bother to carry a wide angle lens as my pocket Canon Powershot and even my old Lumia phone can both shoot raw files. Before it was stolen, I did sometimes use a Canon EF 24-70 L lens for landscapes and close-ups but replaced that with an equivalent zoom and also a 90 mm macro Tamron. I had a lightweight Slik tripod, but rarely have the opportunity to use it. I also toy with a circular polarizer sometimes but otherwise avoid filters.
Although not a perfect capture seeing whales in this river is a once a ~decade experience. Some whale watches though see whales along the coast where one might get an industrialized or at least urbanized landscape. A good whale-watching outfit will also contribute to their conservation, which is an added bonus. Whales are in trouble globally and are mostly protected species so wherever you might see them you should make sure never to get too close and especially never to harass them.

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