I was asked about this picture recently. Specifically, “how did you do it?”
Well, from a technical standpoint, it’s easy to explain. Nikon D-80 camera, Sigma 18-200VR lens, ISO 320, 1/800 shutter speed, aperture of f/9.
From a practical standpoint, you need a little luck.
We were on a Na Pali Coast cruise from the north shore of Kauai, and we came across a school of Spinner Dolphins. They seem to be natural hams for the camera, and probably have figured out that we humans act silly when they play for us. That was the first bit of luck.
Then – the guessing began. You have to pick a dolphin (or small group of them) and try to track them with your camera. And repeat. And then, repeat again. All the while, you’re hoping for that spectacular break and jump – and when that happens, you have to remember to be quick with the shutter instead of watching it.
What tends to happen is that all of the dolphins that are jumping and making those spectacular displays and memories for the babbling humans are those that you’re not tracking. By the time you turn and focus on them, it’s over…
Sometimes, you need a little luck.
It all came together for me in a brief moment – the jump, the focus, the exposure, and the timing. While I wished at the time that it was closer and on the other side of the boat so this wasn’t a silhouette shot – there is something about the shape and form of the dolphin that is accentuated by its’ silhouette.
I wish I could tell you that it takes a mastery of skills that only a few have achieved, but then, I’d be lying to you. It does take the right ISO, aperture and shutter speed. It does take patience. (And, thank the programmers, developers, and engineers that made digital photography a reality – because there would be a lot of expensive and wasted film in the process!)
But, to be honest, sometimes, you just need a little luck…