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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkVallarta Living | Art Talk | March 2009 

Photo Tip of the Week: Photographing Humpback Whales in the Bay of Banderas - Q&A Follow-Up
email this pageprint this pageemail usLarry & Linda Bennett - PVNN

Photo Tips of the Week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. To view more of his work, visit
WOW! What a fun three months it's been following and photographing my beloved humpback whales. This by far has been the best year for me as a photographer and by some of the comments I have received via my website it sounds like there has been some great images shot this season.

I know many of the readers have found the past three weeks Photo Tips section helpful and also a little confusing. Since I spend most of my waking hours dazed and confused, I thought this might be a good week to do a follow-up series with some answers to a few of the questions I have received during the past three weeks. If I didn't answer your question feel free to email me at larrybennettphotography(at)

Q: Should I use a filter on my DSLR while shooting images of whales in the Bay of Banderas?

A: I use a Heliopan Ultra Violet (UV) filter on all of my lens. This not only protects the face of the glass lens but it helps to cut the glare. When it is very sunny in the afternoon, I sometimes use a Neutral Density 2X filter. The old school always taught you to use a Polarizing filter when you were taking pictures while sailing or shooting images of the water. Of course it all boils down to personal taste. I can look at an image and tell you whether or not the photographer used a polarizing filter. Using a polarizing filter creates an image that seems unnatural to me and that's not what you were shooting. There are several fun filters to use just for fun type stuff and that's all I would use filters for, fun.

Q: Why is my point and shoot camera always a second or two behind the whales and why can't I get the whale in full breach?

A: Most point and shoot cameras are not made or designed for photographing moving objects. Some of the point and shoots have a sport mode and by using this mode, it will allow you to shoot some moving objects. Some point and shoots also have Tv mode. Tv is shutter priority and by using this mode, it will allow you a faster shutter speed therefore freezing the object, or in this case the whales in motion. Some of the newer point and shoots have faster processors thereby giving you a better chance of getting an image of a whale fluke or a breaching whale. If you still have one of the older point and shoots, I must say that you will be extremely lucky to get two or three images taken and if you are able to catch one of a whale tail or a breaching whale you are even luckier.

Q: I have a DSLR, why are some of my images a little blurry or out of focus in a burst of 6 to 8 images?

A: Without knowing what kind of lens is on your camera, I would say it could be a combination of focal length vs movement. The longer the focal length of a lens the longer it takes your AF (auto focus) to work. For example, an image shot at 300MM will take longer to focus than an image shot at 70MM; it's less than a blink of an eye but it still takes time to focus. Some of the older DSLR cameras have lens that do not have image stabilization built in. It is definitely worth the extra money to buy a lens with IS (image stabilization); it's very forgiving when you're on the bay in a moving boat. Increasing your shutter speed also helps in some situations. To stop and freeze frame a whale is going to be a different shutter speed than shooting an image of a moving car. This takes practice, practice, and more practice and read your camera's owner's manual one more time. Or are you just now reading it for the first time? In which case, you should read it again after you've finished reading it the first time. A neat little thing I do is pre-focus using my auto focus. While shooting whales I use spot metering using my center focal spot, once proper focus is achieved for the area I'm expecting the whale to breach or blow, I then flip my AF over to M or Manual focus. By doing this, you are saving time, about a half second in making your camera and lens focus. During this time that I have saved by using pre-focusing, I have shot 4 or 5 additional images of a breaching whale. This procedure works for me most of the time!

During the middle of March, Puerto Vallarta's Banderas Bay will play host to the Regatta (for those of you who don't know what this is, it is a sailboat race.) This is a fun time to get some great sailing and sail boat images.

For the next two weeks I will have some photo tips on shooting the Regatta both with your DSLR and point and shoot cameras. And as always feel free to email me with you questions and comments and please enjoy my images from in, on, and around the Bay of Banderas at

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Photo Tips of the week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. These tips are to be just tips, refer to your cameras owner's manual for specifics on your camera. Readers are welcome to enjoy Larry's website at

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