On a spring day in 2011, photographer Tory Kallman boarded a whale watching vessel in the Monterey Bay. Eight hours later, as he stepped back onto land, he had with him not only hundreds of photos but the shot that became Bay Nature’s January 2014 magazine cover.
In the spring, gray whales and their calves begin the 6,000 mile trip from their Baja breeding ground to their summer waters in Alaska. En route, they pass through the Monterey Bay. But Kallman who was on a private boat with Nancy Black and her colleagues from Monterey Bay Whale Watch, wasn’t just looking for gray whales that day.
“Spring is the time of year you’ll see killer whales ambush the moms and calves coming through, preying on the smaller ones,” Kallman said. “So we were out specifically looking for a gray whale encounter with a killer whale.”
While that encounter never transpired, the boat happened upon a transient pod of orcas, CA51, that is known to frequent the Monterey Bay. The pod spotted an unlucky sea lion and one by one the orcas launched out of the water, following their find. The boat followed closely and within the first five minutes of the chase Kallman captured the cover photo: a killer whale in pursuit of a snack.
“The transients are really fun to follow,” he said. “If you can find them you’re bound to see something as they’re not afraid of boats, they’re always on the hunt and they’re curious.”
In the hours that followed, the pod killed a sea lion, a harbor seal, an elephant seal and a couple of birds, “just for fun,” Kallman said.
Kallman, a Michigan native and outdoorsman, began photographing wildlife ten years ago. After moving to California, he soon found out about the orcas in Monterey and signed up for a whale watching trip. “I saw killer whales the first time I went out and just fell in love with it,” he said. He began photographing wildlife with a point and shoot camera, slowly moving up to a DSLR. Kallman, who is a computer scientist, mainly photographs marine mammals and has been on hundreds of whale watching trips on Monterey Bay. For about three years, he said, he would head down to Monterey early on Saturday or Sunday to cram two trips into a single weekend day.
“It’s fun to be out there,” he said. “But you really have to put in the time to get those amazing photos that really only happen once every 20 or so trips.”
Kallman said he enjoys photographing newborn orcas swimming alongside their moms, but nothing beats an orca breach.
“The speed and power of an orca in the wild is one of the most amazing things you can see,” he said. “It’s raw nature, at its finest.”
To read our cover story and learn more about the new science of California’s killer whales, check out the January issue of Bay Nature. To see more of Tory Kallman’s photography see our photo essay on humpback whales feeding in the Monterey Bay, or visit his website and flickr page.