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Nature & Wildlife

 - Saguenay St. Lawrence Marine Park - 2021-08-25
Saguenay St. Lawrence Marine Park 2021-08-25

Whale Watching with Nikon Z6

We'd like to share our experience of capturing videos and photos of whales in the Saint Lawrence River using the NIKON Z6 and NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8. Over the past few years, we've been on numerous whale watching excursions, but this time we embarked on a two-week journey, spending several days aboard a Zodiak to observe whales in the Saguenay estuary. The estuary is part of the Saguenay St. Lawrence Marine Park, located near Tadoussac. The trip took place in August, 2021. If you are looking for whale video recordings please visit our YouTube channel.

Last changed on 2024-03-03

Comments about Video Recordings

The whale watching excursions were conducted on a small Zodiak boat which could accommodate up to 8 individuals. The captain was experienced and skillful in navigating the vessel to approach the whales without causing any disturbance to their natural behavior. Opting to stay on the Zodiak provided an ideal viewpoint for capturing photos and videos as it was positioned almost at sea level. Our departures were only scheduled on days with low winds, eliminating any concerns about getting my equipment wet. I found that my 70-200mm lens was sufficient and I didn't need a larger lens. In fact, we were able to get so close to the whales that a longer lens may have hindered my opportunities to capture the moment.

Some photography, video recording advices:

Comments about Nikon Z6 w/ NIKKOR 70-200mm

Establishing Focus

Throughout my whale watching trips, I seldom encountered problems with focusing. My camera and lens combination quickly locked onto any surfacing whale, which was crucial since certain species only appear briefly on the surface. However, I did face a challenging situation when encountering fog, which was quite common during my visit in late August. In such conditions, the camera often struggled to maintain focus and it was particularly challenging to re-establish focus, especially when anticipating the location where the next whale would surface.

Camera Stability / Handheld

When out at sea on a small boat, tripods become impractical. In photography, using a shutter speed of 1/1250s or higher can mitigate the impact of boat movement. However, videography is an entirely different matter. The boat's rapid movement over the waves made it difficult to keep the camera steady and level, requiring extensive post-production editing. My best advice for now is simply to practice, practice, practice.

Sound Recording / Microphone

During my filming, I tried both the camera's internal microphone and an external shotgun microphone. However, recordings with the internal microphone were practically unusable due to the wind and other ambient sounds. On the other hand, the shotgun microphone, specifically the Rode NTG-2, produced much better results when plugged directly into the camera. The only downside was that the mic obstructed my view through the viewfinder. In retrospect, I should have used the microphone with my Zoom H4nPro to avoid this issue.

Acknowledgment

We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Dany Zbinden, our captain during the whale watching trips and owner of Meriscope, a privately-owned marine research station, for providing us with the opportunity to go on whale watching trips.