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Diving Humpback

Diving Humpback
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2009-09-08
Categories: Mammals
Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds MkII, Canon 400mm 2.8 IS
Exposure: f/4.5, 1/640 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2010-02-05 5:07
Viewed: 4087
Points: 42
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
I took this shot in Juneau, Alaska last september. I went on a photographic safari - which meant a boat with very low sides for obtaining a better point of view.

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16 metres (39–52 ft) and weigh approximately 36,000 kilograms (79,000 lb). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the water. Males produce a complex whale song, which lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is repeated for hours at a time. The purpose of the song is not yet clear, although it appears to have a role in mating.

Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometres each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. The species' diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net feeding technique.

Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Due to over-hunting, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a whaling moratorium was introduced in 1966. Stocks have since partially recovered; however, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution also remain concerns. There are at least 80,000 humpback whales worldwide. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, humpbacks are now sought by whale-watchers, particularly off parts of Australia, Canada, and the United States.

Humpback whales are rorquals (family Balaenopteridae), a family that includes the blue whale, the fin whale, the Bryde's whale, the sei whale and the minke whale. The rorquals are believed to have diverged from the other families of the suborder Mysticeti as long ago as the middle Miocene. However, it is not known when the members of these families diverged from each other.

Though clearly related to the giant whales of the genus Balaenoptera, the humpback has been the sole member of its genus since Gray's work in 1846. More recently though, DNA sequencing analysis has indicated the Humpback is more closely related to the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) and to certain rorquals, such as the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) than it is to other rorquals such as the minke whales. If further research confirms these relationships, it will be necessary to reclassify the rorquals.

The humpback whale was first identified as "baleine de la Nouvelle Angleterre" by Mathurin Jacques Brisson in his Regnum Animale of 1756. In 1781, Georg Heinrich Borowski described the species, converting Brisson's name to its Latin equivalent, Balaena novaeangliae. Early in the 19th century Lacιpθde shifted the humpback from the Balaenidae family, renaming it Balaenoptera jubartes. In 1846, John Edward Gray created the genus Megaptera, classifying the humpback as Megaptera longpinna, but in 1932, Remington Kellogg reverted the species names to use Borowski's novaeangliae. The common name is derived from the curving of their back when diving. The generic name Megaptera from the Greek mega- "giant" and ptera "wing", refers to their large front flippers. The specific name means "New Englander" and was probably given by Brisson due the regular sightings of humpbacks off the coast of New England

Humpback whales can easily be identified by their stocky bodies with obvious humps and black dorsal coloring. The head and lower jaw are covered with knobs called tubercles, which are actually hair follicles and are characteristic of the species. The fluked tails, which it lifts above the surface in some dive sequences, have wavy trailing edges. There are four global populations, all under study. North Pacific, Atlantic, and southern ocean humpbacks have distinct populations which complete a migratory round-trip each year. The Indian Ocean population does not migrate, stopped by that ocean's northern coastline.

The long black and white tail fin, which can be up to a third of body length, and the pectoral fins have unique patterns, which make individual whales identifiable. Several hypotheses attempt to explain the humpback's pectoral fins, which are proportionally the longest fins of any cetacean. The two most enduring mention the higher maneuverability afforded by long fins, and the usefulness of the increased surface area for temperature control when migrating between warm and cold climates. Humpbacks also have 'rete mirable' a heat exchanging system, which works similarly in humpbacks, sharks and other fish.

Humpbacks have 270 to 400 darkly coloured baleen plates on each side of the mouth. The plates measure from a mere 18 inches (46 cm) in the front to approximately 3 feet (0.91 m) long in the back, behind the hinge. Ventral grooves run from the lower jaw to the umbilicus about halfway along the bottom of the whale. These grooves are less numerous (usually 16–20) and consequently more prominent than in other rorquals.

The stubby dorsal fin is visible soon after the blow when the whale surfaces, but disappears by the time the flukes emerge. Humpbacks have a 3 metres (9.8 ft) heart-shaped to bushy blow, or exhalation of water through the blowholes. Early whalers also noted blows from humpback adults to be 10–20 feet (3.0–6.1 m) high. Whaling records reveal understanding of the species-specific shape and height of blows.

Newborn calves are roughly the length of their mother's head. A 50-foot (15 m) mother's calf arrives measuing 20-foot (6.1 m) at 2 short tons (1.8 t). They nurse for approximately six months, then mix nursing and independent feeding for possibly six months more. Humpback milk is 50% fat and pink in color. Some calves have been observed alone after arrival in Alaskan waters.

Females reach sexual maturity at the age of five achieving full adult size a little later. Males reach sexual maturity at approximately 7 years of age. Whale lifespan estimates range from 30–40 years to 70–80 years.

Fully grown the males average 15–16 metres (49–52 ft). Females are slightly larger at 16–17 metres (52–56 ft), and 40,000 kilograms (44 short tons)); the largest recorded specimen was 19 metres (62 ft) long and had pectoral fins measuring 6 metres (20 ft) each.[13] The largest humpback on record, according to whaling records, was killed in the Caribbean. She was 88 feet (27 m) long, weighing nearly 90 short tons (82,000 kg).

Females have a hemispherical lobe about 15 centimetres (5.9 in) in diameter in their genital region. This visually distinguishes males and females. The male's penis usually remains hidden in the genital slit. Male whales have distinctive scars on heads and bodies, some resulting from battles over females.

hansh, CeltickRanger, chrisruth, roges, KOMSIS, ramthakur, horia, nglen, nasokoun, marianas, xTauruSx, flashpoint, zulfu, siggi, Scott, jaycee, boreocypriensis, Rajapurohit, eng55, tuslaw, Argus has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • hansh Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 277 W: 1 N: 741] (2762)
  • [2010-02-05 5:11]

Hello James.

That is definitely what you can call an impressive tail.
Great shot, very sharp and nice colors.
I can imagine that you where very impressed when you saw this whale and thank you for sharing it with us.

Gr. Hans

hello James

excellent action photo of the humpback whale, very fine
POV & DOF, fine focus sharpness and details, i love to see
that water coming down from the tail, part of the action, TFS


Hi James

Lovely shot taken here of the humpback whale 'tale'.
I love the DOF how it goes from OOF to focus on the subject.
I think this is excellent photography and i'm sure it is not so easy to photograph of the boat.

Well done and TFS

Kind Regards

  • Great 
  • roges Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 957 W: 0 N: 1329] (6264)
  • [2010-02-05 5:27]

Hi James,
Why some people are lucky.
You're one of them.
Have the opportunity to pose such mammals ... and even in Alaska ... is a dream too nice for me.
Superb image, top detail.
Have a nice day,

  • Great 
  • KOMSIS Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 820 W: 0 N: 2419] (10674)
  • [2010-02-05 5:37]

Hi james,
Exciting, a documentary made ...
Nice timing, detail is excellent.
Best wishes,

The water dispersal around the visible tail fins is so minimal it must have been a smooth dive you watched and shot at this stage, James. It is a beautiful picture and really gives the impression as if I am looking at it from a close diatance.
I alsp enjoyed reading the detailed note on this species. All I feel is love and concern for these giants from the deep.

  • Great 
  • horia Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2158 W: 224 N: 4749] (16656)
  • [2010-02-05 6:36]

Hi James

Another stunning shot from you from a boat :)
Nice to hear that they actually have special boats for photography though...i guess they really do help both the photographer and the business :)
This is a lovely close-up, full of terrific and sharp details - out of which i have to mention those dripping drops that just stand out so beautifully!
The composition is also great and makes good use of the shallow DOF that this magnificent lens offers.
Overall, another very fine posting from you, my friend!

Bravo and TFS

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2010-02-05 11:18]

Hi James. Once again a intersting set of notes to goo with the fine picture. Not one you will see every day. You have frozen this just at the right time . Well taken TFS.

hello James,
this is excellent scene and moment, great composition and photo output my friend!
keep photographing! TFS

Hi James
What a great chance to captured this amazing baleen!
Wonderful texture of the skin!
Congratulation for this fantastic shot!

Hello James, great shot of a diving humpback. Wonderful composition.
TFS and regards,

  • Great 
  • zulfu Gold Star Critiquer [C: 685 W: 0 N: 2] (43)
  • [2010-02-05 12:27]

Hello James wonderful shot with excellent composition, details and notes.
TFS and G's,

  • Great 
  • siggi Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3097 W: 109 N: 12399] (52850)
  • [2010-02-05 12:55]

Hello James,
that's a wonderful photo, majestic! Excellent action capture of the biggest mammal of all.
Best regards Siggi

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2010-02-05 15:57]

Hi James,

What an exciting photographic safari that must have been! It has to be amazing to see a Humpback in action. And you captured the action perfectly. I love the spray coming from his tail!!!!


Hi Big Bro James,

An artistic action capture of a Humpback while diving from the excellent POV with great motion effect! Incredible shot in all around!
TFS and have a nice night and saturday holiday!


  • Great 
  • eng55 Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1256 W: 42 N: 1976] (5892)
  • [2010-02-05 23:23]

Hi James,
Excellent capture of this wales tail.I liked DOF you managed,falling waterdrops,sharpness and framing a lot.Have a great weekend!
Thanks for posting..

  • Great 
  • fthsm Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 172 W: 56 N: 512] (3689)
  • [2010-02-06 1:09]

Very close to what I want to capture. Nice photo and TFS.

  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2010-02-06 1:17]

Hello James,
It must be a great experience to go on a little boat and make a photo like this. Very impressive. 400 mm lens in a boat and handheld I think... Fantastic low POV, DOF, sharpness and composition. Splendid natural colours.

  • Great 
  • foozi Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 2791 W: 0 N: 6696] (25839)
  • [2010-02-06 2:01]

Hi James,
this is something very exciting to witness. You photograph is so lively seeing the tail.Just like in the TV.
well captured and well presented in great details.
I must salute you for sharing this difficult capture and a very precious treasure that you possess.
Thanks a lot.


  • Great 
  • tuslaw Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2754 W: 282 N: 4931] (19883)
  • [2010-02-06 6:10]

Hello James,
What an impressive shot of this humbacks scarred tail. Very nice low POV with with wonderful stop action qualities. Must have been exciting to see such a sight in person. Hopefully someday Rosie and I can make such a trip. Great photo!!

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2010-02-06 12:50]

Hello James,
Nice to take one of these in calm water!
The fluked tail is well portrayed from a fine POV with excellent sharpness and lighting as this humback is diving.
I saw one of these off the coast of Sydney but the waves were too high to get a decent shot and we had to turn back as a storm was brewing up.
Thanks and kind regards,

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