July 13, 2018

Blair Austin

Photographing dolphins, or any kind of wildlife for that matter, can be more difficult than it seems at first. Photographing them while swimming in the ocean is even harder.

I first saw a pod of dolphins swim around me back in the middle of 2015 while I was in the lineup near Cave Rock, Durban, South Africa. At least twelve of them playing around and showing me that bubble space was not a concern of theirs. It felt truly surreal. I knew shortly after this experience that I chose a great hobby and soon to be career. As time went on, I realized that to get a great shot of a dolphin in the ocean, you have to think quicker than them, which is near impossible. They are faster and smarter. 

The Breach

The Breach

A dolphin breaching out the back after surfing a wave in the early morning.

My favorite shots of dolphins have been when they jump out the back of a breaking wave, or a breach. You can see it happen all the time in the lineup, but I had a lot of trouble getting the shot. With my main focus being shooting the surfers most of the time, I was sitting on the inside of the breaking waves. You can see the dolphins glide through the front of the waves, but the beauty of their majestic air is best seen from behind.

(In most situations)

Since my first dolphin encounter, I've spent many of my days in the water keeping my eyes on the horizon. This is when I started my self-project called Project Dolphin Breach. Once they appear, I ignore the unreal pumping surf conditions and the surfers getting the best barrels of their lives (okay, maybe it's not always like that) and I swim past where the waves break to wait for a dolphin spectacular. There have been plenty of times where I was so close to a dolphin, but the camera lens I was using was either too long or too short of a distance.

My favorite occurrence was earlier this year when I was swimming out to catch up with a long set and this large adult dolphin jumped out of the wave breaking somewhere between four and five feet away from me and I dove under just before it could get too close. This same day I watched the dolphins play for hours on end. The birds were even dive-bombing into the lineup to catch fish. The surf conditions were so nice as well. I brought my long lens (450mm) and lost many opportunities to get some killer wildlife shots, but I'm still pleased with what I got that day. 

A Friendly Face

A Friendly Face

A dolphin surfaces and gives a friendly smile.

I love the dolphin pictures that I have been able to capture in the past few years, but I have a long way to go to. Project Dolphin Breach is still a long ongoing process. 

I'm not really quite sure what makes these creatures so majestic. Maybe it's the same way we look at birds and wish we could fly. Dolphins play in ocean waves and control their habitat in a way we could never be able to. They are friendly, they are aggressive, and they are in their home. I really enjoy being able to share the ocean with them and watching their surfing skills. They'll always be the best surfers out in the lineup.

  • Emily C

    on July 15, 2018

    So cool Blair. You’ve made some awesome progress with it this year, can’t wait to see what’s to come. 🤙🏼

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