You’ve likely seen one of Dave Howells’s whale shots.
There’s one in particular that has made it far and wide, with a whale bursting out of the water, mid-twist, in front of a screaming orange sunset.
“If you get a better shot, it will be an absolute miracle, really,” he told The St. John’s Morning Show.
If them’s fightin’ words for you, here are a few tips from Howells on how to snap a shot that might beat him.
1. Get out there
Are there whales in your living room? No? Then you can’t get a great shot if you don’t get up and leave.
“Get out there. It’s beautiful anyway,” he said.
“If you’ve seen nothing … you spent three hours out in the sunset and the water, and it’s absolutely fantastic.”
2. Embrace the chaos
“If they want to play, then you can play. And if they don’t want to play, then you’re not playing, you’re sitting on a boat getting slightly frustrated about how you wish they were playing,” he said.
“That’s part of the joy. You’re in their world.”
3. Look for humpbacks
If you’re looking to beat Howells’s photo, you’re looking for a breach shot.
And that means you’re looking for a humpback, he said — preferably a youngster.
“They’re the only ones that really do any jumping,” he said.
“And it’s very much the young ones who do most of the jumping.… The mother goes down for a dive and the calf is not being watched, so to speak, and gets a bit naughty and starts flapping around.”
3. Get the light
You can’t control the whales but you can control the lighting.
“I know where the sun is, I know what’s gonna make a beautiful shot,” he said. “We’re sort of moving the location around so if it does start happening then we can be in the right position shooting the right way, getting the light I want.
“Nothing’s worse than having a beautiful breach and the light’s not very good.”
4. Buy a bandana?
You may not buy into lucky charms, but Howells has a bunch of them, and he’s photographed people like Amy Winehouse so, hey, something’s working.
His latest lucky charm is likely out of reach: it’s a lightweight, super-fancy camera with a massive lens.
But he also credits his lucky bandana — which he’s had in his bag for his entire 25-year career — with some of his success.
“And I have a bit of a lucky hat, and a lucky watch,” he said.