While Domenic Biagini is used to being in the company of whales, a lone humpback he photographed on April 25 was one of the greatest things he’s ever captured on film.
Biagini, a La Jolla resident and marine wildlife drone photographer for San Diego Whale Watch, filmed a young humpback whale breaching off of La Jolla Shores. What was unusual about this whale’s display was not only that he was alone, but that he continued to jump and frolic throughout the entire day.
“We had a report of a whale near La Jolla Shores and we found this little humpback just breaching its heart out,” Biagini told FTW Outdoors. “It had to have breached at least 100 times. From 11:30 to 12 it breached 20 times. When we got back out [on our second trip] at about 2 it was still breaching – and in between I was getting reports from lifeguards that it was still breaching.”
Since early 2017, Biagini has been using his drone to take photos that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Images of gray whales gliding alongside rainbow reflections and videos of orca pods breaching next to a boat of whale-watchers are just a few of the marine life snippets that he shares on his Instagram account @dolphindronedom
While some critics have accused him of harassing the whales with his remote-controlled camera, Biagini said that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I would say 85% of media coverage of hobby drones is negative, so people are naturally wary of them,” he said. “But the great thing about the drone is I don't have to get that close. I can pull up half a mile short and fly my drone over to [the whales] and observe whatever behavior is going on.”
“So as any negative impact, there just isn't any. It's really the most non-invasive way to get this kind of photography.”
And the positive impacts, Biagini hopes, will be greater than the sum of his almost 12,000 Instagram followers. In addition to all the gray whales, killer whales, pilot whales, fin whales, humpback whales, blue whales, Brutus whales, and dolphins he sees out on his excursions, Biagini also finds a lot of trash. Plastic, fishing gear, and Mylar balloons are the three most common offenders.
“It's pretty disheartening,” he said. “On any given trip out there we'll see 10 to 15 Mylar balloons floating around. And the reason that's so bad is because Mylar does not biodegrade, so when the paint on the balloons chips away, what's left looks like jellyfish to animals that eat jellyfish.”
While Biagini credits places like SeaWorld for initially making whales more accessible to the public, he believes drone photography and social media could be the next push to get people to care about the environments that inhabit their favorite underwater mammals.
By sharing photos and videos of these sea creatures, he hopes that more people think twice about releasing a balloon into the air or leaving a plastic bottle of soda on the beach.
“Now we don't have to put them in tanks; the internet is our global tank,” he said. “And just like anything, the more people see it, the more people care, and the more they're going to demand change.”
For more information about Biagini’s work, you can follow him on Instagram or visit sdwhalewatch.com to book a whale watching tour.