Reasons Why You Need to Keep Your Distance While Photographing Whales

Whale watching is a lovely treat, one that tends to make you jump up and down with joy. Of course, capturing this wonderful moment is a must but photographing whales can be a little tricky. There’s a right way to do it and there’s a wrong way to do it such as if your boat accidently bumps into a whale, do not flock to the side and start petting it like a zoo animal. While whales are gentle creatures, they are the ones that like to initiate the interaction. It’s possible they might strike back in the gentlest of manners but due to their size and weight, the blow will be more than you anticipated. 

Every whale watching retreat has certain rules when it comes to admiring these giants in a healthy and safe way. Whether you are on a tour boat with OzWhale Watching in Sydney or kayaking solo, here are a few reasons why you need to keep your distance while photographing whales: 
Pay Attention to Their Behaviour 

In the ocean, you will either see a single whale flapping its tail or a pod of whales huddled together. You can easily identify distressed whales if there’s a swift change in the way they swim. There will be a lot of tail slapping or the females will try to shield their calves from any exposure. If this happens, leave the area immediately and give them their space. 
Keep Your Distance 

According to Australian National Watching Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching, you need to be at least 100 to 150 meters away from the whale, when photographing it. While there are legal repercussions for breaking this distance, you will also be distressing the whale. Following are some signs that will tell you to keep your distance: 

  • The whales move away from the vessel slowly or quickly 
  • Regular changes in speed or direction of swimming 
  • Hasty dives 
  • Changes in breathing patterns 
  • More time spent diving rather than remaining on the surface 
  • Aggressive behaviour such as trumpet blows and tails slashes 
  • Changes in acoustic behaviour 
  • Approach the Pod from the Side 

While approaching whales, you need to be parallel to them and maintain your distance. Make sure that you are not in their path and do not cut them off. This might cause panic and they can lash out in an aggressive manner. Moreover, if you are on the shore, stay out of their way, so that when they feel overwhelmed, they can retreat into deep waters. 
Do Not Feed Them 

You don’t know the places this wild mammal has been and there’s a possibility that you might catch some disease from it. Plus, feeding whales can make them dependent on humans and every time a boat will approach them, they will flock to its side for more food. This is dangerous for them because not only can they get sick, the boat also might crash into them. 

In conclusions, we would like to say that photographing a whale that shows all these signs of behaviour can be bad for you and this sea creature. So, maintain your distance and follow the rules no matter where you are.


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