Keith Lightbody's Orca Photography Tips



Trips out to Bremer Canyon to see Orca are on a well-designed whale watching vessel that has lots of supporting rails all around the boat. However the ocean can get quite rough so sea sickness tablets before bed the night before and an hour before boarding should be considered. Looking through a lens for hours often does not help any queasy feelings.


Recommend long sleeved shirt, sunscreen and sun-smart hat with strap. Some warm or water-proof clothing is often also needed.



1. Keep the front lens of your camera facing away from the spray (suggest facing down and to the rear or tucked inside your jacket)

2. Carry a microfiber cloth and lens cleaning solution for when you do get salt spray on the lens (do not use your salt covered shirt)

3. Use SPORTS mode or a fast shutter speed (e.g. 1/1000 for a wide angle lens or 1/2500 sec for a telephoto lens). The fast speed can be via Shutter Priority or Manual if you have Auto ISO - set a high shutter speed and f8 or similar aperture.


4. If possible set the camera shutter speed to HIGH SPEED CONTINUOUS shutter (aim for the maximum number of frames per second – not SINGLE SHOOTING)

5. When Orca are sighted but are still below the surface pre-focus your shot so that you your camera is ready to take continuous photos the moment the Orca surfaces.

6. At the end of each day wipe any salt spray of your camera and lens with a warm, damp cloth

My typical settings:

For my 400mm lens I am shooting 1/2500, f8 and Auto ISO (within 100-3200 limits I have set) with -1/3 exposure compensation to allow for glare, centre-weighted exposure and expanded central focus point. These settings work well for both Orca and seabirds. I have these settings saved in CUSTOM C3 so they automatically return if I bump a dial onboard - very easily done in rough weather.

Please note

Tripods/monopods not permitted on board.

Heavy lenses difficult to use in rough weather.  400mm or less usually sufficient.

Also recommend wide angle for when Orca come close or under the boat.

*Keith Lightbody is a well respected Photographer who has kindly volunteered with Naturaliste Charters since expeditions were established in 2014.