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Video : The Challenges Of Filming Sperm Whales In Dominica
By Alexander Benedik, December 10, 2010 @ 12:05 PM (EST)

By Alexander Benedik

Still not unpacked from the last trip, I decided to go to a small Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles, Dominica, for Sperm whale  encounters.

I arrived in Dominica, with only my camera rig and the clothes I was wearing as my luggage was stuck in NY or somewhere else, and joined a group of 5 people on a 5 day snorkel encounter. Izzy, our guide, had a five and a half day permit from the Dominican government, which is the only way you can encounter the sperm whales.

We stayed out on the sea from 8 AM until 6 PM. At first, I wondered how we were going to find one whale in the enormous ocean, but the answer is simple. Jerry, the captain, was using a hydrophone with a 3 miles radius range. This allowed us to get close enough to see the whales on the surface, ensuring we had encounters every day.

However, we quickly realized its not easy to get good footage of the whales. They stayed in  distance, and if we came closer they disappeared. It's likely humans scare the whales away. Therefore, one must approach the whales in a very particular matter. The best way is to not rush, stay calm, stay together in a small group, and not to chase them. This, of course, sounds  good in theory, but its not that easy when the whales approach and everyone wants the shots!

Another challenge was keeping the camera still. As a videographer, I  need steady footage. This was a tough task in Dominica due the surface swells. Furthermore,  if you try to follow a swimming whale, it´s impossible to keep camera steady while finning on the surface.
 
I wish I had better footage from this trip, but to get the best shots all the stars need to align - close encounters, good vis, and good weather.  I did what I could, and still came back the following footage. I hope you enjoy. 


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