Whale Watching Photo Competition – Winners!

4 mins read
21 Sep 2022

Congratulations to Ash McMurrich and Peter Rogers!

We received many wonderful whale photographs for our 2022 Whale Watching competition. The two talented winners have won whale watching tours as First Prizes, plus Whale Trust merchandise.

Coffs Harbour Winner

Ash McMurrich submitted a close-up photograph of a female humpback whale, captured while on a whale watching trip with Jetty Dive, in the Solitary Islands area. The image feels intimate, conveying the gentle nature and curiosity of the whale.

Ash McMurrich’s winning photo of a humpback whale on the Coffs Coast.

A Wild Whale Encounter

Ash told us, ‘We were so lucky that day. The whale ‘spy-hopped‘ the Jetty Dive boat. She kept coming up to look at us, each time drawing a little closer. She came right up to the boat. It was amazing!’

Ash snapped off his winning shot, then gave his camera over to his three children, Ava (12), Lily (almost 10) and Austin (7). They took it in turns to photograph the beautiful whale as she ‘mugged‘ the boat. Mugging is when the whale interacts closely with whale watchers, over an extended period. The McMurrich family enjoyed 40 minutes of mugging!

‘And she looked like she was enjoying interacting with us,’ said Ash. ‘We could hear her breathing, through her blowhole. The kids were so excited. After they took a few shots each we got them to put the camera down and watch, really be in the moment.’

Ash reports that their whale was joined by friends, who communicated with her from about 100m away by leaping and tail slapping. Each showed a different attitude with this non-verbal communication. Then the whales formed a pod and swam away.

Port Macquarie Winner

Peter Rogers’ spectacular image captures the power and magic of the whale in its ocean environment. All the elements of animal, light and water align in this one, awe-inspiring moment.

Peter Roger’s winning photograph off Port Macquarie

Peter says of his shot, ‘We had a great day out with Jody from Port Jet. She really knows what she is doing. I took a few shots and hoped I’d caught something special. I got home that evening and thought yep, got something there.’

Second Prize: Port Macquarie

Did we mention that the competition was fierce? Second prize for Port is awarded to Courtenay Davies for her lonely whale image. This extreme wide-angle shot expresses the wildness of the whale in the vast ocean. The whale’s form is perfectly surrounded by the sea spray as it leaps from the sea. This communicates the magic of the whale in its natural environment and the magic of this world that we share with them.

Courtenay Davies stunning photograph.

Second Prize: Coffs Harbour

Goes to… Kathy Brown! The GWT Photo Competition criteria asked for creativity and this shot shows great artistry. The sea looks soft and inviting, in gentle shades of blue, contrasting with the raw, bright energy of the whale breaching. The clarity of the white flipper sets a carefree, jubilant tone to the image, balanced by the sea bird in the sky. A gorgeous shot.

Kathy Brown’s winning photograph

Kathy is an avid wildlife photographer, and passionate environmentalist. As are all our entrants. It is difficult to come so close to humpback whales without being moved.

Why Whales Are Important

The emotional impact of engaging with whales was the catalyst for the Gowings Whale Trust, when avid surfer and businessman, John Gowing, went diving with whales in Samoa. He was awestruck by their majesty, forming the Whale Trust to encourage others to learn about the importance of whales to the survival of us all.

Junior Winners

Equally awestruck were our young winners of the Junior section: Ava, Lily and Austin McMurrich, from Coffs; and Shelby Coaker (aged 10). Ava’s entry is energy packed, while Austin’s shows the whale tail against the landscape.

The kids found their whale encounter thrilling. The photographs they took were used at their school to share and stimulate a discussion about the importance of protecting whales and their environment.

Take 3 For The Sea

Shelby Coaker lives in Victoria, but her family had taken time out to travel around Australia. A ‘half-lap’ her mum, Courtenay says, through central Australia then down the east coast. Courtenay describes Shelby as an avid environmentalist, who always takes a bucket and tongs to the beach to clean up.

‘She gets really angry at people who litter,’ says Courtenay. Good on you Shelby – we need young environmentalists like you to keep us caring. Learn more at Take 3 for the Sea.

Love Those Whales!

We loved receiving all the amazing photographs for this competition. Thank you to everyone who entered. Please keep sending us your whale images and stories and we’ll publish them on the Gowings Whale Trust website.

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