I am a student, working full time in a paddle sport store, but I also work as a photographer. I have huge dreams — but until those can be achieved I am working hard to build up my skill level. I currently work with a whale watching company in my area to take photos of whales during their trips, so they can be posted for the passengers to see afterwards. Each trip has its special moment and some are more memorable than others. Last week I had a special moment that topped all others.
We were with the residents orcas of J Pod, west of San Juan Island. Polaris and her three year old calf Star were busy goofing off on one side of the boat and J-27, or Blackberry, a 21 year old male, was hunting fish behind us a ways. Resident whales travel in predictable paths so we were well out of their line of travel. Blackberry however, had a different idea.
He dove under the surface and when he came up he was heading on a path that would bring him close by the boat. He was already so close that starting up our engines to move out of his way was only going to cause a larger disturbance. It is important for boats to keep their distance from marine mammals in order to avoid impacting their travel, eating and rest habits, which are vital to their survival in the busy area between Vancouver Island and the Mainland.
The crowd waited in baited anticipation as the seconds ticked by. As his nearly 6 foot tall dorsal fin began to break the surface I began clicking away — my shutter firing rapidly. One of the naturalists on board the boat excitedly asked us if we had seen the "rainblow" in the spray from Blackberry's exhalation. The sunlight had hit the waterdroplets in such a way that a rainbow had been created — called a "rainblow". I check the shots on my camera and sure enough, I had caught my shot of the year, just as Blackberry was coming to the surface, with the rainblow glimmering above his sleek, black body.
Blackberry had chosen to approach us. He wasn't hunting. He just wanted to come past and check us out. Orcas have phenomenal eyesight and would have been easily able to see all of us on board as we rocked gently in the waves.
The photo of Blackberry is one of the best I have taken, and it has a great story of an orca the same age as myself, to go along with it.