Whale | Scott Mead Photogaphy

Getting Up Close and Personal with Maui’s Humpbacks

Winter on Maui is my favorite time of the year. Its cooler (in a relative sense), with sporadic rain showers (keeping the waterfalls primed and full), and the Pacific Humpback Whales are plying the Central Pacific’s waters. It’s the latter I’m most fond of. Having come back from the brink of extinction, these giant mammals swim over 2,500 miles from Alaska to Hawaii to breed, birth and have fun in the Island’s warm waters.

One of the Humpback hot spots is the ‘Au’au channel, which separates the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Centuries ago, these three land masses were one, with the area that makes up the channel once its central valley. As the ocean rose, the valley flooded, leaving a relatively shallow channel, with a depth of only about 108-feet (the ʻAlenuihāhā channel, which separates the Big Island from Maui, reaches depths of 6,100-feet.).

Having such a wide expanse of shallow ocean (about 8.8 miles), it offers a couple of major benefits to the Humpbacks: The water is warmer when the calves are born, but more importantly, t’s too shallow for the Humpback’s primary predator, the Killer Whale.

For the past four years, I’ve hosted my Maui Humpback Whale workshop — A Day with the Whales — on the first Saturday in March. Of the eight-hours our group is together, three-and-a-half of those are spent in the middle of the Humpback’s playground, photographing mothers with their newborns, competition pods of males vying for the affections of females, juveniles breaching, pectoral slapping the water or showing off with wild peduncle (tail) throws.

With 10 photographers aboard the 30’ right hulled inflatable boat, there’s plenty of shooting space. Plus, our boat captain is a literal whale whisperer, who has an uncanny ability to determine where the whales are and are headed; putting the boat in the optimum light while the whales intercept us.

Back on shore, participants download their images, and I lead them to select and process their best images in Adobe Lightroom CC. With tweaks made, we print their best images for them to take home. Last year, we featured Hahenemühle FineArt’s Bamboo paper. This year, we’ll be printing participant’s images on Hahnemühle’s all new Metallic Canvas and stretching them onto Easy Wrap bars, which will augment the depth of the whale and shimmer of the water.

So, would you like to come out and watch the whales play, and come home with some phenomenal whale images? There’s still space available, but the slots won’t last long. Just point your browser to https://scottmeadphotography.com/workshops/ and sign up for an experience of a lifetime.