Still photography from a small boat at sea can be near impossible. I heard a National Geographic Photographer say once, “one of the most important rules of still photography is to keep the camera still”, which I guess is why most professional landscape photographers use tripods. None of this is possible from a small boat which on many a day is being tossed around like a cork in a washing machine.

Photography is difficult at sea even on the calmest of seas. Any breeze at all will carry water and spray back over the boat, not to mention the odd breaking wave crashing over the gunwale which is why most days I need to wear my full length wet weather gear. To combat all this movement I always use the highest shutter speed available to me.  I normally brace myself with one leg against the gunwale and the other leg against my ice box. Everything moves the boat; large ocean swells, little wind waves, as well as wind and current all combine to continuously move the boat and me and the camera one way or another.

The subject one’s shooting is also very much on the move and if like a breaching whale cannot be seen until it breaks the surface of the water.  In the time one takes to turn and point the camera, prefocus, and compose the shot then allow for a little shutter lag that breaching humpback is only a (big) splash. For me, it really did take years of perseverance to capture my first whale breaching shot. Then many more years to capture the quality shots I have on display here. Thirty plus years of working alone at sea with these magnificent creatures has enable me to understand some of their ways and given me the ability to predict their moves or flight paths which gives me an unbelievably advantage as a photographer. Time and time again I have been able to predict to within a few seconds just when that magnificent Humpback Whale will burst out of the water to capture that incredible breach shot. Once when I was photographing a Giant Petrel, taking advantage of the lovely early morning light, when he decided to paddle away from me and I quietly said “where are you going? I’m not finished shooting yet” he turned around and paddled back to me. Moments like this are feel good moments and leave me with a marvellous warm feeling inside. Indeed the most heart warming thing I find is that all these amazing creatures come to me, sure some hope to score fish scraps around fishing boats, but many, like whales appear to just enjoy the company.    

           There are the darling tiny black and white storm petrels whose flight is quick and most erratic as they daintily dart and dance while disappearing and reappearing between the waves providing a real challenge just trying to find them in the view finder.  Many a day I take gigabytes of shots only to download them at home that night to find that I have very few keepers and no magic shots at all. But that does not matter if I have no keepers for I’m back out again next day trying again for that magic shot.  Actually those magic shots are normally few and far apart. The prints displayed on this site are the result of thousands of work days from sun up to sun down with the camera always at my side.  My skills at panning, pre focusing and composing a shot have become better over the years and I am truly amazed at the success I am now having, however capturing that magic shot is still much about just getting lucky and only a little to do with my skill.

                                                                           Richard Freeman.




In 2005 I entered my first photography contest, the Sunshine Coast Show. To my amazement I not only won the category I entered but was awarded the outright ‘Champion Print’. I found the time to enter this show again the following year and was a bit overwhelmed to be awarded outright ‘Champion Print’ again in 2006. I have won several other local photo contests.

 My images have been used by;

The Australian Defence department to promote recruitment. 

The Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities to promote marine protection areas.

The Queensland Department of Primary Industries.

Dr Ian Walkden Brown, Senior Principal Fisheries Scientist
Sustainable Fisheries Programme
Agri-Science Queensland
Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.

The Queensland Museum 

Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol

As well as Seafood Processors to promote seafood.