ORCAS LOOKING UP: Weekly Photo Challenge

“Keep looking up..that’s the secret of life…”

Peanuts (Charles Schulz)



This week rather than doing my own “looking up” I’ve chosen to feature some amazing orca gymnastics in which the subjects, truly amazing creatures, are actually doing the looking. In my opening capture we see a large orca (which can weigh up to 9 tons and be up to 32 ft long) doing a backstroke as his fellow pod-member swims along beside.



“When everything has gone down, God wants you to look up”

Richmond Akhigbe

While our weather in Victoria wasn’t the best, we decided to don the huge jackets, wool hats, fleece gloves and waterproof pants offered by our whale-watching charter and brave the wet cold to seek orcas.  After a freezing, drizzly speedboat ride that lasted 90 minutes we were rewarded with an incredible show provided by a very cooperative pod of these beautiful animals. Above I’ve included a boat-full of whale-watchers to give you an idea of the orca’s size.



“Keep looking up, don’t give up, you never know when your sun will begin to rise.”

Terry Mark

I had to look at this shot a few times to figure out what was going on. If you look closely you’ll see that the whale’s dorsal fin is pointed horizontally to the right as she jumps toward the boat. The fin itself can be up to 6 feet tall and is larger in males than females. As we watched our pod cavorting it was very clear which were the males based on this disparity. Interestingly, orcas in captivity often suffer from collapsed dorsal fins. Scientists have determined that the fins are made of collagen and are upright because of continual pressure from the water as they swim in open seas – sadly something unavailable to captive whales.



“Never forget to look up. Only the connoisseur sees high art.”

Steve Denby

The captain of our boat, part of Eagle Wing Tours, was terrific. She rode the waves like a cowboy, jumping and flying across the water at top speed. She was very knowledgeable about the whales, which are actually members of the dolphin family. In the northern Pacific there are two very distinct communities of orca – meat (primarily seal) eaters and fish (primarily salmon) eaters. The population of the latter have been on a steep decline due to a decrease in salmon quantities and habitat. Much of the issue is related to salmon farming which affects the numbers of wild salmon, and the damming of waters which used to feed their hunting grounds.



“Never memorize something that you can look up.” 😊

Albert Einstein

We were amazed by the speed and power of the whales which were clearly enjoying themselves as much as we enjoyed watching them. Our captain told us it was a combination of a few families relaxing and playing together as well as two male (bull) animals swimming on their own . Because the males were not a part of the families it was difficult to show in perspective how much larger they were than the others but the photo above gives a bit of a look at the size of one male’s dorsal fin.

The way the whales swam and jumped reminded me quite a bit of the dolphins we enjoy seeing on Kiawah, except of course for a major difference in size. It was a fantastic experience, well worth braving the cold. While the photos are definitely cropped (captains are VERY respectful of the whales and the regulations for keeping the right distance) we were actually quite close to these magnificent creatures – among the world’s most powerful predators.

One of the things I most like about blogging is the relationships we form with people they’ve never met. Special thanks to my blogging friends Andrew Seal of The Changing Palette (who, along with his wife Hilde I now HAVE met) and Deb Gale of Carry My Camera for their recommendations on things to do in their backyard (Vancouver and Vancouver Island). We’ve enjoyed it immensely, thanks in large part to their guidance. Perhaps they have some thoughts on how to drop the extra pounds some of their suggestions have resulted in as well 😄

103 thoughts on “ORCAS LOOKING UP: Weekly Photo Challenge

  1. Love these!! We saw a few whales doing the dance in Alaska in May and i was clapping and screeching with joy as I fumbled trying to grab my camera to start clicking. But I decided to just put my camera down & simply ‘enjoy the moment’ … well of course the show was over…. oh well.. lol

    • LOL is right Diane – the same thing happened to me earlier this month in Canada. There was a large black bear on the green of a hole we were playing up in Whistler. As I was fumbling for my camera someone shouted, the bear stood up on his hind legs, gave us a look and promptly ran off into the woods. Opportunity lost but at least I saw him momentarily and took an “eye-photo” 🙂


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  3. Now this is where my SERIOUS envy comes into play… :-/
    This has been a great season for the Orcas up here, neighbors on our place on Puget Sound even said they made there way in front of our place ~ of course I was in HK 🙂 Heading out there in a couple of weeks, so my fingers are crossed, but I think they’ve moved on. Well, at least there should be a beach full of oysters, salmon and sunsets (hopefully) waiting for when I do go. You caught something so beautiful, peaceful and powerful ~ congratulations. The dorsal fin shot you mention shows just how impressive these animals are (and how they need to be free to roam the oceans…). Cheers ~

    • Thanks Randall – and good luck with your “hunt”. They’re still out there somewhere, you can be sure!! Will look forward to your posts from home for a change!

  4. The pictures are wonderful and the commentary as well. What a thrill it must have been to be there. It is a dream of mine to get back to Vancouver / Victoria, having only landed at the airport. Someday!

  5. Absolutely amazing! We also saw orcas breaching on a whale watching trip from Victoria, BC. It was an experience I will never forget – they are just spectacular to watch!

  6. Great pics & what an adventure – lucky you!. Thanks for the interesting info as well, I didn’t know that about dorsal fins (which are all I’ve really seen of whales in the wild, from a distance they are the only part visible).

  7. Not just looking up, a back flip as well! I spent hours trying to photograph dolphins, and they always peeked up on the side of the boat my camera was not pointed at. Orcas seem to be so much nicer to photographers.

  8. Thanks for  sharing i wish i was there with you riding the waves Love and hugs   Cuzzin   Leatrice

    Sent from Samsung tablet

  9. Lucky you to see the orcas. We went on a whale watch in San Diego where most of us got seasick. There was a whale “to my left” but I looked to the right. 😯

  10. We had the opportunity to view Orcas a few years ago and I was in awe of their size and Grace. Wonderful pictures, Tina!

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  12. Please tell me you ended up in a boat as large as those photographed after the speedboat ride. Your photos are wonderful. I have caught glimpses of Orcas, however never this large! Must have been a bit scary.

    • LOL Kathy – sadly we had to go back the way we came, in a small, open speedboat. But by then we were so thrilled with the adventure we didn’t mind a bit. Also our boat was small enough to maneuver for the best view, while the larger boats had to pretty much stay put. as always, you have to give something to get something!

  13. Free Willy! Stunning shots all round, Tina. What a show they put on. Amazing to hear the fins are so tall, so massive. Must have caused quite a few splashes. Love the Terry Mark quote. You never know when it will be your next break 🙂

    • Free willy indeed Mabel – we talked about that quite a bit. Seeing them in the wild makes you feel that much worse for those in captivity. The area they cover in a short time is amazing.

  14. SO powerful….they are….AND….SO carefree…..we must learn from them……truly incredible shots….u must had gotten a good jolt of energy from their theirs……..😜

  15. Fantastic photos Tina. They capture so well the excitement you feel when you see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. As to the those extra pounds, that’s what holidays are for; bread and water when you get home 🙂

  16. What a wonderful experience to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. I truly enjoyed this post Tina, the photos, quotes and your words. Inspirational!

  17. What an amazing experience Tina and such good photos. We went on an orca watch whilst on Vancouver Island some years back, in the fog and drizzle and although we heard a pod (and that alone was amazing) we only glimpsed these creatures as they danced around us – nothing like the sight you had. I am very envious. We also saw a pod whilst on a ferry across to the island, too far away for photographs, but still a wonderful sight. VI is a fantastic place.

    • Thanks Jude – we’ve done many whale-watching tours and this was the best experience we’ve had by far. The tour operator said it’s very rare to see them so playful. It was amazing really. I’ve been on the Kiawah waters dolphin watching at least 100 times and have only seen similar play once in all those outings. And our waterways are much more contained than those around Victoria. It was honestly magical.

  18. Wonderful post, Tina. I love your photos and the story that goes along with them. I enjoy meeting blogging friends too. It’s so much fun to meet in person instead of virtually. Have a wonderful week!

    • Thanks Patti – it was great fun meeting Andrew, with whom I’ve been communicating for a long time. It’s great getting a local’s perspective on a new area too. Wishing you a great week too!

  19. If you make it to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, be sure to visit the Whale Museum!
    Love this post — reminds me of all the bicycling trips my husband and I used to make from Friday Harbor out to Lime Kiln whale watching site in hope of seeing the Orca go by. Once time they did!

    • You never know where you’ll find them Lindy. I was amazed as we flew over the waters how very vast they are and how small the chances of finding them would be. I think the communication network between the watching tours is a major assist for them.

  20. Amazing pictures of the whales. I’ve been out whale-watching a couple of times, but never seen them jump out of the water. So I have a photo gallery of tails and bodies.

  21. This must have been a wonderful experience Tina. I have often toyed with the idea of going whale watching when I’ve been in Iceland. I’m going back in February and I will definitely make the effort. Generally the commercial whale watching boats don’t operate in the winter but I have a lot of Icelandic friends with boats so hopefully I’ll get to see a similar spectacle. Fabulous photographs!

  22. Fabulous captures, Tina!! How cold was it when you went out? I can imagine the speed boat ride out there was quite rough, not making it easy to capture the beautiful Orcas. I’d love to be part of it. This is the closest I can imagine to experience the Godly in the divine nature. What a beautiful take on the challenge. ❤

    • Close to Godly is a good description Dina-it was amazing. While standing on the dock, altho cloudy, it was quite comfortable. But racing through the open seas in a speedboat was quite another story!! Once we found the whales though, we stayed fairly,still as they danced around us and we completely forgot about the cold!

  23. These are absolutely fabulous! I cannot imagine how wonderful it must have been to see these amazing Orca’s!

    • It really was magical Debby. The whales put on quite a show. I’d have loved to have my good lens along but worried about getting it vet or dropping it. So much fun just watching the camera became secondary–very unusual for me😊

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