Today there are available an infinite variety of devices that allow us to take pictures and videos in almost any occasion, from mobile phones and mini videocameras, to professional SRL cameras. However, no matter what is your level of photographic expertise or professional equipment, taking pictures and videos of wild dolphins can be as rewarding as frustrating.
Here some very simple tips that can help everyone to try to obtain some nice shots to keep as memories of their encounter. Submitting your pictures or videos along with you sighting details through our Report a sighting form, will allow to confirm the species of your encounter and if your pictures are very good maybe even recognise the individuals you have met (see: Methods, PhotoIdentification)!
Understand the dolphin behaviour. If the dolphins are bow-riding everything is exemplified, but if they are not, it is important to stop the boat a bit further (see Sighting dolphins: what to do) and observe them for few submersion, to be able to understand what they are doing and their direction. It is important to keep looking 360 degrees around the boat: many times dolphins come unexpectedly out at the back of the boat. It also useful to understand their breathing pattern: it generally consists in a series of short powerful exhalations/inhalations during their surface time, followed by a longer dive that can last for second or minutes, if not hours in some cetaceans. Keeping a count of the surfacing and diving length can help following them.
Use a high shutter speed to obtain sharp images. If you have a non professional camera but with the choice of choosing some settings, such as portrait or landscape, you want to set your camera on the setting for “sport” or fast moving subjects. If you are working with a SRL, use the shutter speed priority and set your shutter speed at 1250/sec or over.
Close up images. If you have a zoom facility, zoom on the dolphins only after you have clearly identified the dolphins in your frame and understood their direction. Possibly start zooming at the beginning of their surfacing cycle.
Light. Always remember to place yourself between the sun and the object if possible.
If you are a passionate photographer , here is an interesting detailed article to know more about it:
How to photograph dolphins in the wild – Chris Johnson – The Whale Tracker.
Photoidentification is a powerful tool used in dolphin research that uses pictures of the dorsal fin to recognise individual dolphins. During your sighting, once you have got nice shots of the group, you can also try to take suitable pictures to be able to identify the individuals that you met. Here some tips:
1) Focus on the dorsal fin and zoom as much as your camera or videocamera allows
2) The fin should be facing you perpendicularly, so both your and the dolphin’s direction should be parallel.
3) If you are encountering a group: try to photograph as many individuals as you can, and try to get one group picture
4) Submit your pictures through: Report a sighting and if we already know the individual we will tell you who you have met!