The idea was fairly simple. Find as many people as I could who hadn't seen a whale and take them out on the ocean to get them up close and personal with 40' gray whales and document their entire experience.

Those who went whale watching called many different places home. Some were born and raised on the Oregon coast, some came from the Midwest, and one from Tibet. The one thing they all had in common was that they had never seen whales in this capacity.
We thought finding people to go whale watching would be difficult as it would involve people coming down to the coast, primarily on week days. It turns out the most difficult part was going through the many entries of willing participants. There was only enough budget and time to take about 30 people, so it was narrowed down by several factors to try to get as great a variety as possible.

A much more imposing challenge was coming up with a way to document everybody's reactions. This piece is about turning the cameras away from the whales and showing the human reaction to seeing these animals for the first time. In order to make sure that no reaction was missed, GoPro cameras were mounted to our participants' chest via a harness built of common household goods.
The biggest variable in this project was the cooperation of the whales. Typically you won't have any problem finding whales off of Depoe Bay, OR in August or September but with wild animals, nothing is guaranteed.

That was very prevalent during the first four days of this project where we saw zero whales. Luckily we only had one person who went out with the cameras during that span, but it was certainly a troubling start. Every now and then you just get a dry spell and the whales are hard to come by.

Fortunately they don't typically last long and by the time the first weekend hit we were finding one or two whales every day. When September rolled around we had several days where we would find as many as seven whales on one trip.

In theory it would be possible to shoot something like this in a couple of days, but with all the variables at play we spent nearly 30 days on the coast.
Help us spread the word about The Spout and share this project with people!

What our whale watchers are saying

  • chrish

    It’s so awesome, you see this stuff on nature shows and to actually have it in front of you, 5 or 10 feet away is so cool!

    -Chris

  • patricia

    You hear they are 40 feet and its hard to rationalize it, then you see them and its so much larger than you anticipated.

    – Patricia

  • lindsay

    It was really exciting, we saw 4 separate whales.  They’re such huge animals, to know that you’re this tiny person in a small boat alongside this creature that weighs thousands of pounds and its just doing it’s thing is really cool.

    – Linse

  • jackschommer

    You see these things about whales and they are right there, and you think “that wont happen to us” but they were RIGHT next to us.

    – Jack

  • jacquelineschommer

    It was just fantastic, just a really great experience.

    – Jacqueline

  • brit

    It’s amazing. They’re so close, they’re so big and it makes you excited wondering where they’re going to come out next.

    – Brittany

  • sky

    I was really struck by how loud they were, sometimes it was easier listening.  It was really beautiful.

    – Sky

  • laura

    It was great!

    – Laura

  • jessica

    It was breath taking, I got a little misty eyed.  It reminds you how incredibly tiny you are.

    – Jessica

  • andrea

    Super fun and I loved it, I want to come back and do it again.

    – Andrea

  • long

    When they come 15 feet away it kind of blows your mind.

    – Long

  • saba

    It’s something I’ve only seen in pictures, so it was definitely a great experience.

    – Saba

  • matt

    Honestly, it was one of the most amazing, wonderful things I’ve ever seen.

    – Matt

  • angela

    It was great, it was amazing, they’re so effing huge.

    – Angela

  • jen_jamie

    It was sweet!

    – Jenn and Jamie

  • scotty

    It was exciting to see the size of the whale and how every dive was unique.

    – Scotty

  • lisa

    It was amazing, something that everybody should do.

    – Lisa

  • katie

    It was awesome, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

    – Katie Simon

  • jenny

    It’s pretty unreal watching them come out of the water, something so large.

    – Jenny

  • kaitlin

    Pure shock and amazement!

    – Kaitlin

  • joe

    We connected with it right away, I was amazed by how close it came to us and how interactive with the boat it was.

    – Joe

  • vanessa

    It totally made me cry.  It was so awesome.

    – Vanessa

  • chrisf0

    I had such a good time, every time the whales got out of the water you just experience this joy.

    – Chris

  • eric_jacey

    It was great being on the water and seeing one of the most majestic creatures out there.

    – Eric & Jacey

  • rebeccalexa

    Just a fantastic experience

    – Rebecca