This photo of a Sea Otter was taken from a boat along the Alaska coast during last year’s photo tour. I have been lead several Alaska photo tours and workshops so I have a lot of experience photographing from a boat..
Here are two great tips on photographing wildlife from a boat.
Tip number 1
Make sure it is a small boat. Simply because you can get closer to your subjects. It is much easier to get a full frame subject. It is a better perspective since you are closer to eye level. You can hear the splashes, dives, vocalizations etc. This can also be a disadvantage if some animals are too loud and smell awful (for example: Stellar Sea Lions).
It would be impossible to get a photo like this from a two decker boat or a cruise ship.
Tip number 2
Make sure it is a private boat if you can. Most boat tours are not great for photography because they leave mid-day or return before the best light. It is also important to have control of where you stay and how long.
I was on a boat with a group several years ago (I was not the leader) and we saw a group of sea otters. The boat stopped and the photography was incredible. After about 5 minutes the group complained and wanted to leave. I was shocked and upset. We passed by several incredible Alaska scenes that the group voted to skip.
I booked a private boat in Alaska in 2016. We had a pod of Orcas (Killer Whales). It was incredible. As we were photographing them a few tour companies came by and left after 10-15 minutes. We followed the orcas for the afternoon. As we were photographing the whales, we saw some incredible mountains and glaciers in the background. We waited until the boat was positioned so that the whales were in the foreground with an incredible background.
There are some disadvantages with a private boat. It is much more expensive. Another disadvantage is it is hard to find a good boat operator who is experienced with wildlife. Safety is the most important consideration. You want a captain that knows the area and the boat inside out. Most tour companies are switching to bigger boats because they make more money. This is made searching more difficult.
For this year’s summer Alaska Trip, we added an additional day on a private boat at another location. You can never have enough time on the ocean. This will allow us to cover more areas.
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