Oct 042010


Hanging Out - Southern Puget Sound Resident Orca

 “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

– Albert Einstein

When it comes to photography and creating, Nature has always been my muse. Through the diverse topography of the Pacific Northwest, to the abundant and beautiful wildlife that lives here, all are a source of fulfillment and inspiration for me.  

Close Encounters - Southern Puget Sound Resident Orca

This summer, my greatest muse and inspiration were the wild and magnificent Orca that live in the cold, blue waters of the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve photographed the Orca in Puget Sound many times, yet the thrill of seeing them in their natural environment never fails to take my breath away. I’ve had so many amazing encounters with the Orca this summer, but by far, my favorite memory of the Orca will be of waking to the sound of them breathing while I was camping and kayaking up in Johnstone Strait in British Columbia. If ever one sound could be associated with peace for me, it’s the sound of Orca breathing in the stillness of the early morning dawn. Perfect quiet, perfect peace, and the sound of the Orca breathing … yeah, that pretty much does it for me.  

Hello! - J-Pod, Southern Puget Sound Resident Orcas

 I think one lesson I did learn through following and photographing the Orca this summer came when they couldn’t be found. In all the years I’ve been following the Orca, running away for weekend photoshoots that focused on the Southern Resident pods, I never doubted that I would see them … that whenever I wanted to see and photograph them, they would be there. Well, as many locals living in the San Juan Islands and near the Salish Sea would probably be happy to tell me, seeing them is a gift, one that is not guaranteed and one that should never be taken for granted.  

Life's Good! - J-Pod, Southern Puget Sound Resident Orcas

The Southern Resident Orca pods are struggling to survive. With numbers hovering around the mid 80s, these magnificent animals are fighting for their life in Puget Sound. Between the heavy toxin loads they carry in their bodies from contaminants in the water to the ever increasing uncertainty that surrounds the viability and availability of salmon that the Southern Residents depend on for daily sustenance, survival for the members of J, K, and L pods is a constant battle at best. I don’t think I fully stopped to think about what it would mean if they were permanently gone until that one weekend for me when they were nowhere in the Salish Sea to be found.  

Calypso (L94) and Baby (L113) - L-Pod, Southern Puget Sound Resident Orcas

To be honest, I was guilty of becoming complacent, taking for granted that the Orca will always be there … that’s far from being the case, not only with the Southern Resident pods, but I think with life in general. People, places, events come and go so quickly through our lives. We blink and they’re gone. If this summer has reminded me of anything, it is to savor and appreciate who and what I have in my life right now in this moment. Reaching back to what once was yesterday is pointless, that time is past and will never be available to you again. Reaching forward into the future for what might be is enticing, but ultimately completely unreliable. There are no guarantees for any of us of what tomorrow can deliver. The only certainty we have is today, this moment, this experience, this time. One more lesson from nature, a little more wisdom gained in this journey through life.  

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If you would like to view some of my favorite moments captured with the Orca in addition to a few of their marine mammal friends, my photo portfolio hosted by Zenfolio can be accessed at:
Slideshow option:  http://Pnwnative.zenfolio.com/orcas/slideshow 
Individual Photo Portfolio: http://Pnwnative.zenfolio.com/orcas