Day at the Breach

We took 30 people out on the ocean for their first encounter with whales. Here is what happened...

The Concept

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.

The Logistics

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 Whales

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.

A huge thanks to everybody who helped make this happen!

Most importantly, those whole volunteered to have cameras mounted to them, recording their faces for 60-90 minute...