Humpbacks Graze NY Shores

The waters of New York hold some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline out there, making it a frequent spot for photographers. Some of the most breathtaking photographs you’ve seen of places like The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Manhattan are often captured from a boat or on the water. However, just a couple miles off the shores of Rockaway Beach there is a new attraction for spectators and photographers alike.

Over the past couple of years, there have been great numbers of menhaden fish, also known as bunker, in the Rockaway area. The menhaden are also prey of humpback whales, drawing them in only a couple miles from the coast off Rockaway Beach. Tours have developed during the spring and summer months bringing tourists out to view breaching of the humpbacks and their newborns. Still, any photographer will tell you, much patience is needed in order to achieve the perfect shot.

Long Beach’s Mike Nelson, a veteran photographer to say the least and co-owner of Unsound Surf Shop, recently captured one of what we at NYSEA is calling one of those perfect shots. Nelson, also an avid fisherman, was out on his boat just a few nights ago fishing when he came across three humpback whales just off Rockaway. Never without his camera, he reeled in the rods and began snapping some photos of the whales breaching the surface. “It was hard to keep up with them. One minute they are in front of you and the next they come up a hundred yards away,” says Nelson. After a while of following the beautiful whales around, they got closer to shore and began swimming in front of the New York City skyline. “I held the camera right on the freedom tower and waited. Finally, it breached right in front of me and I got a nice sequence.”

The stunning photograph was posted on Instagram and has received a considerable response since. Humpback whales and other marine mammals continue to demand our attention. Aside from giving photographers new and fun material, they are offering onlookers a world of excitement. Keep an eye out for the majestic creatures this summer and make sure your camera is ready!  Check the full sequence from Mike Nelson in the gallery below.