The Farallon Islands, (Spanish farallón meaning "pillar" or "sea cliff"), are a group of islands off the coast of California approximately 30 miles (48 km) west of the Golden Gate Bridge and 20 miles (32 km) south of Point Reyes National Seashore. This area is frequented by sharks and whales and has breeding colonies of California, Stellar's, and Fur seals. In addition, there are 12 species of seabirds that breed on the islands.
We headed out of the Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito, CA on the Outer Limits and the trip was organized by Shearwater Journeys. It was sunny in the Harbor but shortly after departure we entered the fog. We first encountered Black-footed Albatross shortly after reaching the edge of the continental shelf and deeper waters about 9 km SW of the Farallones. Photographing nature is tough enough but add the 3-dimentional movement on a boat you have a real challenge with focus and movement. I was shooting at 1/1600s to capture the Albatross below and the fog was less dense so I was able to use f/5.6 and a 450 ISO.
Before we got to the continental shelf, we passed through the harbor and there were over 100 Elegant Terns and in the early morning light there was a warm glow highlighting the terns.
At the Farallones, we encountered numerous Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murre, and the striking Tufted Puffin. Shooting in fog has its challenges one being the low contrasting light. If you are shooting on any level of auto settings you will have a hard time exposing your subject especially if the sky is the background. What I did was first eliminate the motion of the boat and my camera by pushing up the shutter speed to 1/1600s, next I set ISO and f-stop trying not to shoot wide open at f/2.8 and trying to get the ISO as low as possible. The compromise was 250 ISO and f/4. I could have set the exposure compensation to overexpose +1 to +2 EV, but I find that it is easier to adjust the shutter speed to overexpose with a foggy sky background and then adjust again when the background isn't so bright.
We did find over 20 Humpbacks and a Blue Whale right before we headed back to the harbor. As we approached the Golden Gate the fog was clearing and I was able to capture San Francisco under the Golden Gate. Pelagic trips are usually long and this one was 8-1/2 hours but they are always extremely rewarding.
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