July 26th, 2011

common dolphins week #5

Common dolphins playing in the waves, Wild Coast, South Africa

Nikon D300 + Sigma 80-400

this image is 35% cropped from top and left

Location on Google Maps

Wikipedia reference

Nothing can stop our common dolphins week, even troubles with LiveJournal infrastructure ! I totally suck when it comes to topside telezoom photography, especially from a moving and shaking zodiac boat. On the wild coast 3-4 meter high waves considered as normal working condition, so imagine yourself task of balancing with big lens in your hands, trying simultaneously to aim on the subject and look for the waves trying to splash on your lens surface (camera itself of course protected by soft case, without it it will die pretty soon). Sometimes results come ok, like this breaching whale shot, but most of time great moments end up being poorly focused or missed at all. To get successful in topside photography of dolphins and other marine life a lot of practice required - and maybe faster lens, my Sigma 80-400 is surely too outdated and slow. I hate to invest into new equipment unless I have really good reason to do so, but seems like new fast telezoom lens is something I want to buy pretty soon - probably I will go for Sigma 120-400 - does anybody have anything to say about it ?

Anyway, I decided to publish this image to diversify collection of underwater dolphin choreography with topside one. On sardine run typically we say "slow day" if we can't go underwater due to bad visibility, fast moving or limited action. But even on the "slow day" we don't have shortage of dolphin action observable from the top - jumping, chasing boat, working hard on building bait balls - a lot of fun. This image shows yet again playful nature of these mammals - on that day waves were really really high, and dolphins just went crazy, trowing themselves high above surface, repeating it over and over again. Unlike with breaching whales, where pattern of action becomes recognizable and predictable after some time jumping dolphins are very random - it takes really good reaction to take shot like this - and still it lacks good focus ! I will have to work hard on improving my topside photography in seasons to come, meanwhile enjoy this shot which is still nice despite it's technical shortcomings ! :-)