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Vagabond Interrupted: A Spectacular Week in Baja

Swimming in Bioluminescence, Painting with Light, a Vagabond Interrupted, Whales, Dolphins, and a Day Off

sunny 85 °F

I promised myself that I would jump in the ocean and drink a beer after work. By the time my shift ended, it was dark out. This didn’t deter me in the least. When I stepped ashore, I stopped briefly to say hello to some friends of mine near the bonfire, before slipping away to fulfill that promise.

I walked a couple hundred yards away from the landing area to a secluded sand beach where I couldn’t see or hear the ship. I set my pack down, and turned to look up the stars. Orion, Taurus, the Milky Way, and a hundred others twinkled above. I grinned. I turned to the water and padded over the cool sand to its edge. I dabbled my toe in an inch of water. It felt delicious. I entered the water, making sure to shuffle my feet along the sandy bottom in order to warn any rays or puffer fish of my arrival. When it was waist deep, I dropped to my knees, gasping from the chill of the water. I felt my body relax, my grin widen, and I started giggling. This was what I was dreaming about all day.

When I swished my hands through the water, tiny glowing orbs swirled in my wake. The bioluminescence glowed like fireflies on a late July evening. I am totally immersed in the grandeur of the desert seascape. At that point, I just let go. I figured the sea would take care of me. The gentle swells pull me in and out. I thought to myself, “I am riding the breath of the ocean, if not the breath of the world.”

I’m not sure I’ve had a better swim in my life.

Back on the beach, I cracked my beer. I took that first sip and looked up at the stars again. I had an idea. I grabbed my camera and tripod and set up a basic composition at the mouth of an arroyo. I tried a few exposures before I dialed in my ISO, my shutter speed, and aperture. Then I started experimenting with “painting” the rock with my flashlight.
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I like the results.
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My friend wandered down the beach to see what I was doing. I set down my camera, and we sat in the sand talking of constellations, whales, dolphins, birds, and Mexico. A single shooting star streaked by. After awhile, I grew chilly as I stopped taking pictures. I gathered my gear and we walked back to the bonfire.
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We grabbed a drink and settled around the fire. Who doesn’t love a bonfire on a beautiful beach with friends? Alberto played flamenco songs on his guitar. A large waning moon rose over the ocean, gradually rising high enough to light the eerie sandstone formations of the desert.

I can’t think of a better way to cap off a great evening.

Vagabond Interrupted
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I’ve had an amazing week. It’s been hard for me to write this entry on the count that I keep being interrupted by all of the awesomeness happening around me. For instance, this morning there were fin whales right off of our bow. Fin whales might be my favorite whale species, but that can change depending on if I ever see a narwhal or not. As it is, the fin whales were less then forty feet away. They had relatively short dive intervals going down for about three minutes before coming back up for air. I watched them for an hour. I even caught a quick glimpse of a fluke. Fin whales rarely show their flukes.

This episode led to more downloading and editing of photos for this entry. When I was in the middle of editing, the call came over the radio that there were mobula rays skimming the surface of the water off the bow. Once again, I set down my computer and tromped off to the bow.
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I’ve never seen mobula rays up close before and was soon lost in the moment. The mobula rays could be the most graceful animal I‘ve ever seen in the water. They glide with elegant strokes from their wings, the tips breaking the surface of the water by a few inches.
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I ran off to wake my friend who was taking a nap. It’s common among crew members to make “wake up” promises if something awesome is happening near the ship. The mobula rays definitely triggered the wake up clause. Experiences like this are better shared than not, and I was glad to rouse everyone out of their naps.
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When I got back on deck, the rays glided along our port side, less then twenty feet away. I decided to get my camera… Ah jeez. See? Even as I write this, there are dolphins leaping just outside of my window. Well, I gotta go. I’ll be back.

From Sunrise to Sunset
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It’s difficult to explain to people what a typical day is like working on a ship here in Baja. If you were to read my journal, or look at my pictures, one might think I spend all day relaxing on a beach, watching whales, or taking photos of dolphins.

What you don’t know is that I work twelve hours a day-everyday. This gives me the chance to experience the wonderful wildlife and play on the gorgeous desert islands. Generally, I keep myself very busy with the boat operations and up keep. But when there is good wildlife, I set down my angle grinder and pick up my camera. When I’m off shift, I take off my uniform and head to the beach.
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Each day has been remarkable enough to deserve its own chapter. But, I’m not writing a book. It’s difficult to make time to write when there is so much to experience just outside that door.

The pictures that follow are this week’s featured bouquet. My days have been awesome from sunrise to sunset.

Sunrise Over Mexico
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Bow Riding Dolphins
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Land’s End
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Dolphins in Flight
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Humpback Whales near The Gorda Banks
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These humpback whales breached dozens off times in a three-hour period. The food was plentiful. They would rise half way out of the water and fall atop the bait ball with a tremendous splash. Then they would eat the stunned baitfish.
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Fin Whales
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What you are looking at here is a fin whale just beneath the surface of the water. You can see a thin white line just below and right of the spout. This is the right side of the mouth of the fin whale. The left side doesn’t have this coloration.

Magic Water
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Sunset Over the Pacific
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I often wonder about my path in life. Sometimes it feels as though I look for greater meaning and miss the point completely. I don’t think I’ve made that mistake this week.
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Cheers! To the good life…

Posted by Rhombus 01:53 Archived in Mexico Tagged desert wildlife hiking whales oceans dolphins climbing rays photogaphy

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Comments

Simply cool! I trust you have thouht about turning all this into a book. Mine is coming through Northstar Press. I'd bet they'd love to do a globetrotting Finn!

by Earl Brogan

In all my baja months, I never got a decent mobula shot! Well done! But they are nothing compared to your star photos. I don't even know how you got them so bright within such a short time period (i.e no tracers). I think it would be wise for me to get back there again! Keep it coming Miller. We will get our adventure in one day! By the way, J
oshua tree was epic!

by Ryder

We'll see about a book... I'm not sure i have the attention span to put it all together.. I need a manager/publicist to do the dirty work i don't like doing...

Thanks Ryder.. Here's what I did for the stars.. ISO 800, 30 seconds at F 3.5 or so.. Sporatic "painting" with my flashlight.. I'm not completely happy with my painting efforts.. A broader beam of more even light would be perfect.. Maybe if i put a white silk sock over the lens... You name the time that you can travel and I will make it happen.. :-D

by Rhombus

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