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tips on taking species identification photos

  1. When taking photos of whales and dolphins for species identification try your best to take a full shot of the head from both sides (left and right). If you can get a photo of the snout or mouth, it will be even better. This is like taking a profile shot of a person.
  2. Taking a head shot of a fast swimming dolphin can be challenging. You need to observe the movement of the animal and anticipate where it will come up next. Point your camera a few inches or feet from where the dolphin went down and take a shot as it comes up for air.
  3. Get a shot of either side of the dorsal fin of the animal. You have to be positioned directly on either side of the animal (left or right) to get this shot. Notches or cuts on the animal’s dorsal fin can be used to identify each individual.
  4. For some species of large whales like the humpback whale, the photograph of the ventral side (underside) of the fluke is used to identify each individual whale. To get this shot, you need to wait for the whale to do a dive and when it raises its fluke just before it goes completely underwater, focus on the underside of the fluke and click the shutter. This movement happens in a matter of seconds so you need to be pointing your camera at the tail area throughout the whole sequence. You need to be positioned behind the whale and a little to the side to get the best angle for the shot.
  5. For blue whales, photographs of the blotches on the sides of its back are used to identify individual whales.

Bottlenose dolphin and Risso’s dolphin calves spotted of Davao Gulf.

A pod of Fraser’s dolphins.

Fluke photo of a humpback whale.