Big Animals – Minke Whales, Australia
Minke whales are the second smallest baleen whale species, growing up to 20 to 30 feet long. The minke whale is dark on top and has a white belly and an identifiable white band on each pectoral fin. Seemingly curious about people, minke whales often approach divers and snorkelers helping to create fantastic photo opportunities.
GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA
Around the Great Barrier Reef, minke whales often come right up to dive boats. Mike Ball Dive Expeditions puts lines with floats in the water for snorkelers to hold onto and the minkes swim right up to them. Australia has enforced certain regulations concerning being in the water with minkes. Freediving is not allowed and you must be holding onto a line and cannot swim after the animals. Strobes are also not permitted. Most encounters go on for hours.
When to Dive
June through July is the peak season for minkes.
Minke whales are photographers’ best friends. They seem to almost seek out boats and divers and spend hours swimming around snorkelers. Instead of the high-speed snorkel chase you have with most whale species, the minkes come right up to you. The longer you wait, the closer they’ll get each time.
Given the regulations, the main way to get successful images is to spend as much time in the water as possible and shoot away.
As no strobes are allowed, it can be challenging to make this mostly blue creature “pop” from a blue background. Regardless, because minkes are so large and in open water, strobes would only serve to pick up backscatter.
You can achieve better results by manually white balancing, but this needs to be done quite often, especially when the sun is out. You can also use RAW conversion to change the white balance in post-processing.—Brandi Mueller