We have another wonderful 2022 Photo Contest photographer feature to share with you all! Taryn Paul took this year’s winning “Non Marine Mammal” photo of a hungry double crested cormorant while she was on a trip with Rudee Flipper Dolphin and Whale Watching, and we absolutely love it! Taryn has shared some great stories about how she got into photography, what she loves about photographing marine life, and some great tips that you can use to help take gorgeous photos of your favorite wildlife too! Read all about it below, in the third post in our series of photographer highlights from this year’s photo contest!

How did you get started in photography?

I became interested in photography in 2016 after graduating from Eckerd College. My mom gave me her Canon Rebel as a gift, and I started bringing it along wherever I went. Having recently moved from Florida to Virginia, I did a lot of exploring on my own of the surrounding area. I took photos of any wildlife I came across including birds at Mackay Island, frogs at Back Bay, and bears at Alligator River. During this time, I also started going on dolphin watching trips every chance I got.

What are your top 3 tips for photographers?

  1. Early on, I received the advice from a close friend of using the “Sports-mode” setting when taking photos of wildlife. Due to an animals’ unpredictability and quick movements, it is an easier way to get action shots without having to constantly adjust camera settings.
  2. Have a camera lens that can be used for a variety of situations. Although there are certainly times when it is beneficial to use a larger lens, I always try to have a 55-250 mm lens nearby. With the uncertainty of what marine life you may come across, being able to shoot something close-up (ex: wake-riders) or something far away (ex: humpback breaching in the distance) with a single lens is very valuable.
  3. If you are not actively doing something else, keep your finger resting on the shutter button. Even if you don’t have the camera at eye level, if something unexpected happens (ex: a manta ray breaches or a tern drops a fish mid-air) press the shutter button anyway. Sometimes you’ll be surprised and get a lucky shot.

What is one of your favorite photos you’ve ever taken, and why is it a favorite?

One of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken was from February 2021. I was on a whale watching trip aboard the Rudee Whaler. Both the Rudee Flipper and our vessel were sitting still while watching a humpback whale. The whale was very curious and active, and breached between the two vessels. I like this photo because you can see the Virginia Beach Oceanfront in the background, and it gives an idea of the size of the whale relative to the Rudee Flipper.

Do you have any future goals or ambitions for your photography?

I hope to continue photographing unique wildlife that can be seen offshore of Virginia Beach. A huge diversity of animal species can be seen during Pelagic Wildlife trips with Rudee Tours including pilot whales, Atlantic flying fish, ocean sunfish, fin whales, leatherback sea turtles, etc. Each trip is different and you never know what you’ll come across!

In your opinion, how does photography support and encourage ocean conservation?

During my time as a naturalist with Rudee Tours, I have met multiple people who are first time whale watchers. Despite having lived in Virginia Beach for several years, many of them have no idea that we can get multiple species of marine mammals here including humpback whales, North Atlantic right whales, and manatees. By taking photos during our wildlife excursions, we help to spread awareness of the diversity of marine life that can be found right off the beach. This might encourage the public to be more conscientious of how their behavior can impact wildlife. An example of this could be someone picking up debris on the beach, or a person following marine wildlife laws such as not speeding through and separating a group of dolphins.

A huge thanks goes to Taryn for taking the time to fill us in on her story as a photographer, and for sharing these stunning photos! We are so grateful for the impact that photographers like Taryn can have on sparking an interest in marine life and its conservation, and hope that you have enjoyed reading through this highlight series! Check out our posts featuring Beth Miller and Stephanie Johnson for more photography tips and insights, and if you post any of your own photos from a trip with a Whale SENSE company, be sure to tag us on Facebook!