Monday, December 19, 2011


was a tough year for many people around the world including my husband and family. We spent the last 11 out of 14 months apart, we are glad we could offer this time and support to my mother in law who passed away on November 15th 2011 after a long battle with cancer.

We have learnt a lot about ourselves in the last year, we are strong, we always new we had a great relationship and it has become stronger during this last year. For this we are grateful.

Losing Marie-Paule has been difficult, she was an immensely strong lady who had the luck of traveling many places in the world, she even had some planning input into the trip my husband and I will take in February.

So as we move into 2012, there are parts of 2011 that we will leave behind, but there are all the memories and sadness that will stay with us. Those we will work through together and know that we have the support of my family and friends all over the world.

To those of you I know, and to those that I have not met yet, I sincerely wish you all the best for 2012, I hope we see continued strength and though pain and sadness may happen that we can overcome these painful times. So best wishes for a safe and happy entry into the next year.

In loving memory.

Its in the eyes

Recently I saw this fabulous article on eye photography, and the detail that is in the eyes. I wanted to take this a step further and see what reflections you could naturally get within the eye itself. I am currently using a 60mm lens though my 105mm when it comes back from being cleaned would be a better choice. I am also shooting my own eye on a tripod, why? Blue eyes have much more detail than my husbands green eyes.

I still have a long way to go to get the shots I am needing, but here some of my first.
© Karen Stone 2011

© Karen Stone 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Black and White

Have transformed one of my colour whale pictures from 2011 into a black and white through aperture. I like the details in black and white, any thoughts out there?

© Karen Stone 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

First D7000 pics

Just recently I purchased a D7000, and today finally I got to have a little play around my garden. There are some very noticeable differences from the D200, firstly is how impressive the viewfinder is.

Here are a few shots I took today, got to change some settings and make it more mine, but so far this camera is turning out to be a top purchase. I had my old 60mm F2.8 lens on, which is one of my favourite lenses to shoot with bar the 105mm which is hopefully being cleaned at Nikon as we speak.

Luckily for me I have some great subjects on my doorstep.

Loredo © Karen Stone

Frangipani © Karen Stone

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ocean Conservancy Photo Competition

It has been a while since I had the time to do things with my photos, now I am back to making time for them and again rekindling one of my greatest passions. So I figured why not enter a competition! I have never entered a photo competition before, I have read many on line forums that moan and belittle some competitions and it has always kept me away from them, but as I am sitting here on my deck reading Ocean Conservancy, I thought why not? What do I have to lose by entering. So this is the photo that I have entered from this years whale season.

© Karen Stone 2011

We will see how it does, the competition has just started and entries are being uploaded now.... if you want to enter go here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Think Tank Bag Competition

ThinkTank Photo In A Bag Giveaway Competition

A sure way to get photographers juices flowing by Think Tank Photo, a giveaway of one of their greatest bags full of photography goodies.

All you have to do is click to enter every day till the 20th December and then they will announce the winner. Not only can this bag carry many photography items, it fits in most overhead luggage compartments (some small planes have not been tested yet).

Do I want to win this? Doesn't everyone, so fingers crossed my internet keeps me logging in every day and I will try my best.

Good luck to everyone and thanks so much Think Tank Photo for the great competition.......

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Toy

An earlier post talked about my excitement for travels in February 2012, and now my excitement is at its peak level. As I am here in the US, Paul decided to clue me on on our adventure, so I could do some shopping for necessary items.

To say the least, this is my trip of a lifetime, a combination of culture, history and most importantly nature. So where are we going....... Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Antarctica and Canada. I am getting butterflies just typing in that list!!!

Today, my husband surprised me once more with a new Camera Body for the trip, my D200's though still a good camera are 8 years old and do not have the low light quality that is needed for Antarctica. So, here is my new toy, the Nikon D7000. A great camera with stellar reviews...... Thanks Paul xx

Tomorrow I am going to test out the new body and take some close up macro shots, after seeing the inspiration of the eye shots I just posted on Facebook and will focus on a few subjects that are close at hand here in Charlotte.

I have to say on my return to Tonga soon, if my baby goat will stay still long enough, his eyes will make quite the close up picture.

Anyway, could not help but share some excitement at current times of reflection and family........

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Autumn Colours and Halloween

As we are here in Charlotte, it has been wonderful to see the Autumn colours. Living on a small South Pacific Island, you forget about the in between seasons of Spring and Autumn, but they really are the two most wonderful for photographs and colours. I only have my cheap  point and shoot with me as this is not a photographic holiday, but still it captures the rich golds and yellows of the trees.

Seeing how much Halloween is celebrated here always amazes me, I wonder if the UK also does this now. The only time I remember Halloween as a child was the one time my parents threw a party for my brother and I. My dad the ever trickster, claimed to have put marshmallows on string and we blindfolded had to pick them off.  Sounds like a wonderful family game, however half the items on the string were in fact cotton wall balls!!! Nice one dad, memories are made to last.

A house down the street in Charlotte gets ready for the Halloween Celebrations

Monday, October 24, 2011

Travel Time

Fingers crossed that no major hazards come up before I travel this afternoon, off to the land of plenty, the USA. First stop Charlotte, North Carolina to see my husband and mother in law. Then on to Orlando and the big DEMA show.

Looking forward to walking around a supermarket and seeing that there are more than 1 types of spaghetti sauce!!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Season Wrap Up....

Yesterday was our last day with the whales, we always have a season start date and end date, this can be changed but when the numbers of whales decrease significantly, we call it a day. What a way to end though, a 23 minute swim with a mother and calf on the surface is amazing however the second swim was 1 hr 10 minutes long, giving us maximum time limit.

Its always sad when the whales leave here, there journey to the feeding grounds of Antarctica is filled with stress, predators and rough weather. Hopefully the whales will not be affected by the oil spill off the coast of NZ, a tragic tale of events affecting a wide range of animals.

Here is just a glimpse of some of our adventures during the season, right now I have three VEPA reports to finish, and then its on to finalising the data we collected this year and sending it off to the collective researchers.

Malo lahi to the whales for another wonderful season......

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The perfect day

was yesterday, not only was the weather wonderful and I was on the boat with my husband, but the whales were just stunning.

We came across the mother and calf and after 2 x 10 minute swims she settled in for a 47 minute encounter, allowing the calf to come up every 5 minutes to play on the surface. The mother, rested just below at around 45ft and would lay on the surface for her breathing cycle with us. These encounters are not to be expected everyday and the guests on the boat were treated to a wonderful encounter. After spending our time with her, she was left alone for a 1.5 hour break in which time she can nurse the calf or swim off.

What a beautiful mother and calf. Enjoy the photos, the smile on my face says it all and so nice to have my camera by my side.

© Karen stone 2011

© Karen Stone 2011

© Karen Stone 2011

© Karen Stone 2011

© Karen Stone 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A fighting mother and a calm calf..

Yesterday, we came across a mother, calf and escort on the first part of our trip, as we began to look at their behaviours all three seemed to be very calm and approachable.

As the boat was still approx 80m away, the mother made a huge turn and dove under the escort. She then came up under the escort and a huge fight between the two escalated. The calf sensing some danger, seemed lost and swam over to where we were on its own.

This becomes a very worrisome time, as 3 years prior a mother abandoned her calf to another boat, when a group of males distracted her away. There was a happy ending as operators banded together and returned the calf to its mother. (Not something anyone wants repeated here). Seeing as the calf had made a beeline to us, we felt sure that the mother would return and she suddenly appeared with the escort about 40m away and the calf returned to her.

However the fight was not over, the mother with the calf swimming just in front of her now, continued to ram and tail swipe the escort. This can be seen as a behaviour between males in the rowdy/heat runs, which occur in order for mating to happen. (See next post for more information).

We did not try and engage the whales any further, when behaviours such as these occur there is some inbalance between the natural escorting of the mother and calf. This was the first time I have seen a female attack and control an escort in such a manner.

Female and escort fighting
It was fascinating to watch from a distance and we left scratching our heads as to why the mother had reacted in such a way.........

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Whale Season 2011 - So far

Singer © Karen Stone 2011
The season of 2011 has been good so far, despite some very windy weather in August. Our groups and guests have had amazing days both above and below the water.

2010 was a very different season up here, with less adult whales and activity around. The water temperatures of 2010 stayed 2 degrees above what they normally are and a lot of the adult whales stayed in the cooler waters down south.

2011 started in early July, sightings were confirmed and a mother and calf were spotted around mid-July. August had a few slow days with some wet and miserable weather, but despite this there were also some very good encounters. The water temperature whilst still a little warmer than 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 is cooler than 2010 which is a good thing.

One of the things we noticed in early August again was the lack of large heat runs or rowdy groups, with the most whales involved recorded by us was 8. In 2008 and 2009, we were seeing very large heat runs with 11-14 whales involved. The heat runs are excellent to watch with the surface activity as the female winds up the males who challenge each other for the suitor.

Still in September we are seeing weak heat runs, lazy in their paths, but good to jump in the water with on occasion. The one thing that has been noticeable through out August and September so far is the amount of couples that are hanging around together, even when the male is singing there have on 4 occasions been another whale with him. Challenges from other males have been made, but have soon fizzled off with out much build up.

Female attracting attention © Karen Stone 2011
The females must be getting wound up as some have definitely had more interest in the boat than in the males around her.
Heat run action © Karen Stone 2011

Full moon this past weekend started with heavy rains late on Saturday, but by Monday the weather was flat calm. Many people always state that whales breach more in wind than on flat days, I never could quite fathom why as the wind does not aid them in the breach. Monday, flat calm and every whale we came across was breaching. 6 couples all doing exactly the same behaviours. Strange, yes indeed.

Calm days have also been enjoyable for bird and fish activity with the noddies and the terns all over the place. Not the greatest picture below but that is a tuna jumping!!!!The frigates have also been acting peculiar fighting each other and chasing after the smaller sea birds when they have no food. A good bird spot last week was the flock of Shearwaters in North Bay.

 We will be continually updating our data as the season runs its last 5 weeks, the success of the fluke id's this year has been great with 43 collected so far by both myself and guests. Thanks guys.

We have some good recording of the 2011 song, which we will put up on here soon. Internet is just a wee bit slow right now, in fact this post may not be able to go through, so with that in mind. I shall return with more info soon.........

Saturday, September 10, 2011

February 2012 - Excitement

Though I am not one to wish time would pass quicker, I can not wait for February next year to come around. Why? Travel, my husband has booked a surprise 6 week trip, focusing on hot and cold climates, nature and culture, water and land. Where are we going? I have no idea yet. The only things I have been told is to pack for everything.

The challenge in that is we live in a tropical setting, the only cold clothes I have are for snowboarding which we tried this year in Utah and loved.

Do I want to know where we are going? No for a person that normally hates surprises, I am enjoying this one. 2011 has been an exceptionally hard year for us personally with us spending many months apart due to Paul's mom's illness. There are more trying months to come before the end of 2011, Paul will be leaving soon to return to Charlotte, as we wrap up the whale season here.

So yes excited I am. Planning what camera gear to take with me, what weather conditions we might come up against, and the building feeling of change and travel again is overwhelming.

Enjoying the snow in Utah February 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pseudorca crassidens

© Karen Stone 2011

The Humpback whales here are always amazing, but occasionally a species turns up that tears you away. The Pseudorca is one of them, part of the dolphin family, smaller than a pilot whale, but more intensive. They as Pseudorca hunt other whales, as we got into the water, a bull that had been jumping by the side of our boat, swung back around and gave me a good ping, trying to figure out what we are. Their pings hurt, it lasted in my chest bone for over 20 minutes. The juveniles as seen in the picture above gave us a wonderful pass, showing their teeth and staying 5m below us for over a minute.

Paul did a fabulous job of driving, judging the speed and getting us in the water. The guests were blown away by swimming with a different species, after so many good swims with the humpabacks in the last two days.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The story of a tail

Humpback Whales are renowned for fluke identifications, the story lies of their life in their flukes between bites, scars, knocks and dings,

Please read this article about a whale from Australia known as Knobby.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fluke Id's 2011 to date

Been busy collecting and processing the fluke id's so far this year, all the above are not in the records to date.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Whale Tales Vava'u

My other blog Whale Tales is where I highlight our whale trips out on the mating grounds in Vava'u, I will soon be merging that blog to this one, so please make sure you follow this one. For now I will post in both.

So far 18 fluke identifications for this year, lots of juveniles around and mating/courting pairs. The singers are here, and we have some song recorded so far.

More to come later, enjoy your weekend.......

Sunday, August 14, 2011


There are times in your life, when before you know it and understand it, change has already begun. The change can be a good one, some can be undecided by you. Change is happening and as we progress into the new stage of our lives, we will share on here our stories, our work and anything else that is fun.....