The story behind the Sunset Breach

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Humpback whale breaches at sunset

During our three month sojourn in Camden Sound in 2007 we moved with the whales and the tides between Deception Bay, Wilson Point and Augustus Island, one of the largest islands on the Kimberley coast.  Late one afternoon as we traveled back along the main channel on the western side of Augustus Island after a  session photographing birds, the evening stillness was broken by the sound of a cow and calf tail and pectoral slapping.  Female humpback whales use fin and tail slapping as a means of announcing their presence to attract a suitable mate.  Extensive wildfires along the coast cast a pinkish haze over the water, resulting in some beautiful sunsets.

Two whale tails Augustus Island

Two whale tails Augustus Island

A female humpback whale breaches in a channel near Augustus Island in Camden Sound. The calf had breached seconds beforehand and the footprint was still visible. (Annabelle Sandes/© Annabelle Sandes | Kimberley Media 2012)

We missed a shot of the whale calf breaching, but managed to capture the female as she sailed out of the water in front of the setting sun, executing a perfect and elegant half twist.  The “footprint”, the slightly smoother patch of water in the bottom right of the photo, shows where the calf had breached seconds beforehand.   The following two images were captured just before we lost the light completely.  There isn’t always time to change camera settings when things are happening rapidly, and in hindsight I would have used a higher ISO; nevertheless, this remains one of my favourite images.

Canon 5D  ISO 250   1/1600 sec   f 5.6

 (Annabelle Sandes)

A humpback whale calf waves its tail in the main channel on the western side of Augustus Island. (Annabelle Sandes/© Annabelle Sandes | Kimberley Media 2012)