recently returned home from yet another orca trip. I think I've spent
something like 50 weeks of my life in pursuit of killer
whales, my favorite animal. Very near and dear to me, as I began my
career 20 years ago with orcas. Amazing creatures.
People often ask what it's like. I usually say something like "hours,
sometimes days of boredom, punctuated by a few moments of magic..."
That pretty much sums it up. Normally I do these trips by myself. Melissa
has accompanied me a few times, but it's getting tougher these days
because she is so busy with her art. Fun to remember that a week of whales
in the San Juan Islands was our first date...
This time I was accompanied by a good friend, Frank WEST, a superb
photographer from Switzerland. We met in South Africa a few years ago,
while chasing great white sharks. He told me that he's always wanted to
spend time with orcas, so it was my pleasure to show him around.
Below is an excerpt from my trip log, a "day in the life" sort
of accounting. It's not blockbuster movie material, but it certainly gives
you an idea what goes on behind the scenes. After the text, you'll find a link
to new orca pictures from this trip.
Thanks so much to Frank for being such a great partner on this expedition.
And thanks, as always, to the whales.
NOTES FROM THE FIELD
5am- Wake up early, again. 4 fitful hours of sleep is not enough for me
anymore. Maybe when I was 25, but not anymore.
6am- On the water, surrounded by fog. Really thick. It’s been like this
most mornings. Can’t see more than 20 yards or so, and with a maze of
islands around us, no choice but to pull out the old crappy handheld GPS.
We meander through a foggy sea for a while. Cold this morning.
7amish- Almost collide with an island. GPS doesn’t have this island on
its map… Hum… I know about where we are. Philippe is kind enough not
to ask me if we’re lost. We’re not, but I don’t know exactly where
we are. As it’s low tide, and I’m worried about rocks, best to shut
down and wait.
7:30am- Fog begins to tear apart, and we start motoring again. I get my
bearings and plot the day’s course. Surprise! A group of transients off
the end of Gooch Island, near the beacon. 5 whales, one big male, one tiny
newborn, and three others. Pretty sure I’ve seen these guys before, but
can’t recall the exact ID.
8am – 12 noon. No more fog, nice sunshine now. Transients slowly moving
south, obviously hunting. After a nice spyhop, still with golden morning
light, we follow them into a bay. We see them investigate a number of kelp
beds, circling rocks, looking for harbor seals probably. Yes, definitely
harbor seals. Witness two different attacks, lots of splashing around, saw
the seal frantically trying to escape. Not 100% sure, but I think the last
attack was successful. Unfortunately I can’t make any photos which
really make sense of the attack.
Fascinating to watch these whales go about their daily lives. The orca pod
worked together effectively, surrounding the prey, even creating waves
trying to swamp seals and knock them off the rocks. One orca makes
stealthy approaches into the shallows, almost sliding up into a tidepool
where petrified seals are cowering. Whales celebrated a bit after the
kill, playing at the surface, tail slapping, etc. Very young calf leaps
out of water with mouth open. All 5 play under the boat, rolling upside
down and blowing bubbles. We don’t have underwater cameras ready, so all
we can do is watch, enjoy the moments.
Afternoon. After leaving the transients in search of resident whales,
hours pass with nothing. Zig zag all over the place, covering about 60
miles without any sightings. Where are the other whales we saw yesterday?
Dinnertime, but of course we’re still on boat, and looking for whales,
not eating dinner. That might happen later, depending on how tired we are
when we return. Finally at about 6:30 we see some fins far away, way south
of the south end of San Juan Island. Water is fairly calm, so we decide to
stick with them til sunset. About 15 whales here, spread out. J and K pod
members. I’ve known some of these whales for 20 years… No breaching or
spyhopping tonight, just fin shots as the sun sinks and the water glows
orange. Wonderful to be out here alone with the whales, listening to them
8pm. We have a long way to go, about 35 miles to reach the dock. Time to
say goodnight to the whales, top off the gas tanks. Put on the warm
jackets. It’s going to be cold tonight. Speeding back north, I wonder if
we’ll find the whales tomorrow…
9:30pm Things were going fine up until half hour ago, until the last few
miles, when we had to slow down and navigate by gps and use the spotlight
to find our path through the darkness, avoiding the sandbar, rocks, and
floating debris. Pull into the dock and tromp up the ramp. Not looking
forward to filling up retrieving the boat, cleaning up, unpacking,
readying everything for tomorrow, etc. Just want to sleep.
10:30pm. Back in hotel room. Too tired to eat. But have to download
pictures and take care of some computer work. Need to send a picture to a
client. And charge batteries and get some things ready for tomorrow.
1am. Lights out. But only for 4 hours. Start the whole thing over again
END OF NOTES
A SELECTION OF KILLER WHALE PHOTOGRAPHSS FROM THIS TRIP, PLEASE SEE THE
A few people have asked about high quality prints of these pictures- Yes,
we'd be happy to make a print or two for you, on paper, canvas, or metal.
Please contact us via email and we'll take it from there.
in April, Melissa and I dived into the Graveyard
of the Pacific- Truk Lagoon, the wreck diving capital of the world. It
was something complete different for us, history meets biology, artifacts
and artificial reefs all jumbled together into an emotional experience
overflowing with unique photographic opportunities. We explored dozens of
Japanese shipwrecks sent to the bottom during Operation Hailstone in
February 1944, a result of intense bombing by American planes in a
surprise airstrike which dealt the Japanese naval fleet a fatal blow.
Swimming through lightless inner passageways of 500' long warships we were
truly immersed in the darkness of World War II. We discovered caches of
unexploded bombs and torpedoes, cargo holds with demolished Zero planes,
tanks frozen in time, and even the remains of soldiers who perished at
sea. The above is a wide angle fisheye picture from inside the bridge of
the Nippo Maru, a scene featuring Mr. Potato Head which brought a little
levity to the otherwise heavy solemnity of the place.
here's a link to a slideshow with more
shipwreck artificial reef images from Chuuk:
rh71629, new underwater photo of a friendly
green sea turtle from Palau
art prints, canvas gallery wraps, and metal prints Many
people ask if our marine photographs are available as prints for display
in one's home or office. Yes they are, and we'd be happy to help you find
the perfect photo of a shark or whale or dolphin or tropical fish or
octopus or seal or whatever finned or flippered creature you like best-
including this curious green sea turtle shot at an interesting angle in
Palau, photo .
Please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our new print
gallery at Fineartamerica here: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/brandon-cole.html
We've just now started to upload photographs to this site, and we'd be
glad to upload pictures specifically for you. Simply let us know what you
want and we'll take it from there
20 years February 2013 marks twenty years in business for Brandon Cole Marine Photography. Thanks so much for your support over the last two decades! We sincerely appreciate having the opportunity to share the wonders of worldwide oceans with you. Our image library continues to grow and we look forward to continued collaboration. Our commitment to you remains unchanged- to happily provide exciting, beautiful and affordable imagery from beneath the waves, and superb service backed up by accurate information and solid scientific knowledge. Please let us know how we can be of assistance. No project is too large or small.
To help celebrate our partnership, when you license a picture from us in the next three months we will send you a gift (a signed print of either a photo in our collection or Melissa's artwork at www.brandoncole.com/melissacole_20years.htm), make a donation to a marine conservation organization on your behalf, or offer a special discount off your licensing fee.
Thanks again, and we look forward to hearing from you soon!
Key to photos, starting at top left and continuing same row to right, then continuing left to right each row beneath:
Oceanic Whitetip Shark, Hawaii USA 1993; crab camouflaged on sea cucumber, Indonesia 1994; Killer whale breaching, Washington USA 1995; gooseneck barnacles, Canada 1996; anemonefish, Thailand 1997; spawning Sockeye Salmon, British Columbia Canada 1998; Leafy Sea Dragon, South Australia 1999; Great White Shark, South Africa 2000; Green Sea Turtle, Hawaii USA 2001; Whitetip Reef Sharks feeding at night, Costa Rica 2002; nudibranch, Indonesia 2003; Horse-eye jacks schooling, Belize 2004; Florida Manatees, Florida 2005; Giant Pacific Octopus, BC Canada 2006; Humpback Whale tail flukes, Alaska USA 2007; coral reef, Fiji 2008; Bottlenose Dolphins, Honduras 2009; California Sea Lion with seastar, Baja Mexico 2010; aerial view of Greet Barrier Reef, Australia 2011; Green Anaconda, Brazil 2012
video clips We have recently begun to capture HD video footage of the big blue- whales, sharks, schools of tropical fish, and more. High quality clips will be available for licensing to our clients worldwide. Please contact us for more information. For now, please enjoy watching a few clips:
V-QZ52826-v1. school of Diagonal Banded Sweetlips fish on Great Barrier Reef in Australia
V-RD0129. Humpback Whales, mother and calf swimming together
V-RC0073-c1. Colorful tropical fish and reef sharks swimming over coral reef
Our new photo (QZ74125) of a Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion) published on the front cover of National Wildlife Magazine. This "Nemo relative" lives in a symbiotic association with Magnificent Sea Anemone (Heteractis magnifica). Photographed on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, tropical Pacific Ocean.
Australia New Australia photos are now available on our web site. Melissa and I really enjoyed exploring the Great Barrier Reef, the world's most famous coral reef, Earth's largest living thing. It had been a few years since my last photo expedition to the GBR, and I was happy to see healthy hard coral gardens, schools of tropical fish, sharks, and so much more. In addition to scuba diving along the Ribbon Reefs outside of Cairns, and on the remote Osprey Reef out in the Coral Sea, we photographed one of the top shipwreck dives on the planet, the SS Yongala, a magnet for marine life. Check out the exciting Yongala images, including aggregations of stingrays, and then take an helicopter flight with us to make aerial pictures. We are considering a follow up trip in the next year or two to encounter the dwarf minke whales. Please let us know if you have any projects for which you need dramatic marine photography from Australia. As always, we will be happy to help.
ENCOUNTERS We’re happy to
announce our new photo e-book app for the Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod
Touch, " Ocean Encounters ".
Join us in exploring beneath the waves. Enjoy close-up encounters with
marine wildlife large and small (whales, dolphins, sharks, fish and
invertebrates)... scuba dive down onto colorful coral reefs and through
swaying kelp forests... and learn about the marine environment worldwide.
250 photos, "notes from the field", and a cool interactive map
bring ocean adventure into focus like never before.
If you own one of the above mobile devices, visit
the App Store today to download " Ocean Encounters " by
using this link:
take a moment to write a review after you give it a test drive. User
feedback is really important in helping to highlight quality apps from
among the hundreds of thousands of things available on iTunes/App store.
would like to take this opportunity to show you new photography from an
exciting trip to Baja Mexico, more specifically the La Paz area in the Sea
of Cortez, and the Socorro Islands way out in the Pacific Ocean.
Highlights of the expedition include swimming with huge friendly manta
rays, interacting with playful sea lions, watching whale sharks feeding,
being enveloped in clouds of baitfish, poking around the Cabo Pulmo coral
reef, and even petting a completely wild dolphin. We've been visiting Baja
for more than 20 years- in fact this is where my wife Melissa and I met-
and it remains one of our favorite places on the planet. Please take a
moment to browse our new
Baja photos or all
of our Baja photos and let us know what you think.
Islands The incomparable
Islas Encantadas 600 miles off Ecuador once again delivered a remarkable
array of animal encounters- whale sharks, walls of hammerhead sharks,
mind-boggling schools of bonito, sea turtles, my favorite modern day
dinosaurs the marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, playful sea lions,
current-swept reefs covered in sea fans and gorgonians, penguins, and on
and on and on. It remains one of my favorite places on the planet. Please
browse our new Galapagos photos when you have a moment.
Whales feeding on baitballs Earlier
I reported on our very successful marlin shoot. But I did not mention that
in addition to striped marlin, I also was fortunate enough to capture some
of the most dramatic underwater feeding shots of Bryde's Whales (Balaenoptera
brydei) in the world today. I wish I could say that these pictures of this
unusal rorqual whale resulted from careful research, but that would be a
lie. I had absolutely no idea that these baleen whales were going to show
up to crash the marlin party. I was simply in the right place at the right
time. Lady Luck deserves much of the credit this time. Anyhow, it was
quite the experience to have to dodge the rapier-like bills of fiesty
marlin AND twenty tons of blubber at the same time. The National
Geographic Magazine has just published two of the images in the October
2009 issue, and I can finally post my collection on my web site. Photos
here: ( link
Dolphins Fresh from last
month's dolphin shoot in the Caribbean: new stunning sunset shots,
intimate portraits, dolphins at play, and underwater images. We've added
the first batch of dramatic mages to our web site. More to come soon. This
new coverage adds to our already class-leading collection of marine mammal
photography. Please contact us to discuss how we can help bring your next
editorial project or advertising campaign to life. Photos
here: ( link
Zealand I'm not sure why it's
taken so long to dive Middle Earth. Whereas previous trips to this
magical land saw me focusing on whales and dolphins, this time we did
everything that we had not done before, including scuba exploration of the
Poor Knights Islands. Which I'll sum up with "Great fun, bold color,
interesting critters, refreshingly different underwater habitat." But
that was only the start. With scuba gear still wet, we piled into a
campervan and went on a rampage, north to south. Our list of topside
adventures included caving in the Waitomo area, Maori culture and boiling
mud pits in Rotorua, hiking up volcanoes in Tongariro National Park,
clawing up and sliding down Franz Josef Glacier, kayaking in Milford
Sound, cruising on Doubtful Sound, killing swarms of sand flies in
Fiordland, marveling at tree-sized ferns in temperate rainforest, and
much, much more. Honestly, I would say that there's more exciting
outdoorsy stuff to do here, and more jaw-dropping scenery awaiting around
every corner, than just about any place on earth. What a trip! Photos
await: ( link
Marlin feeding on baitballs I
just returned from two wildly successful photography expeditions and have
something very cool to share with you: brand new underwater pictures of
striped marlin and sailfish. Not struggling on a fisherman’s line, but totally wild
and free, lording it over the blue. Quality
underwater photos of these majestic gamefish are very rare. I was
fortunate enough to finally find myself in the middle of amazing baitball
action with dozens of billfish on the hunt. Displaying remarkable agility
and speed, the excited, neon-flashing "stripies" and
"sails" rocket into the
spinning mass of sardines and mackerel, slashing with spear-like bills to
separate, stun, and then swallow one unlucky baitfish at a time.
Photographing these eight-foot long menacing "superfish" hunting
in the open ocean was one of my career highlights. (
Marlin photos link
) ( Sailfish photos link
for easy to use Keyword Search Engine and Category Search
Planned upcoming shoots include manatees in
Florida, great hammerhead sharks in Bahamas, minke whales in Australia,
Tasmania's weird marine life in sponge gardens and kelp forests, wild
dolphins and tiger sharks in the Bahamas, cenotes and whale sharks in
Mexico, and additional projects
yet to be determined. Please let us know if you have a "piggy-backable"
assignment you'd like us to complete.
created this new feature on our web site ( link
) to highlight some of our favorite photographs
from over the years, and to give you a quick, easy look into the subject
diversity of our photo library. We will update this page every so often, so check
back every so often.
Blog My wife
and partner Melissa, an artist specializing in colorful, detailed
paintings of fish, birds, and other animals, has recently updated her web
site , added e-commerce capability, and a blog.
Please stop by for a visit and see fantastic art in the making!
We finally join the
blogosphere. Come on over to our blog
for sporadic updates, news, and other info.