Since early 2017, the La Jolla resident has been using his drone to take photos that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. And 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 percent 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.
Be safe during gray whale season
With gray whale spotting season in full swing until the end of April, wildlife photographer Domenic Biagini wanted to warn boaters to keep a few things in mind when it comes to whales.
“While many people handle themselves fine around them, all it takes is someone rushing over to [the whales] at top speed, thinking they'd get a selfie and that ruins it for everybody,” he said.
“Enjoy the animals, and whale watch responsibly. Follow the Marine Mammal Protection Act and stay 100 yards away.”