Poquoson, VA resident Brian Lockwood likes fishing off his JetSki. He's been using the personal watercraft for decades, and has rigged a four-person JetSki with rod holders and a fish finder to make it comfortable and practical. But in the winter time, "there's not much going on, fishing-wise," he says. So he uses the JetSki to enjoy his other hobby: photography.
Luckily, Lockwood has some nice subjects to photograph.
"I've always seen a whale or two," he says. "One humpback or a few seals. But over the last seven to eight years, there have been more. Now, it's almost a guaranteed thing. Yesterday, I saw eight whales! The group next to me said they saw 10. And we have 60-70 seals now on the rocks around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel."
Lockwood says that the creatures are coming in closer than they were in the past. Generally the whales are as much as five miles off the shore of Virginia Beach, but recently they've been coming in as close as a few hundred yards. The whales have grown in numbers over the last seven to eight years, as Lockwood stated, enough to merit a research study by the U.S. Navy and other marine wildlife groups. Lockwood's photos have been picked up and used in their studies.
So, is he ever afraid?
"Sometimes... yeah!" he says, with a laugh. "I'm on a JetSki! I get nervous when they start breaching, but that's not often. If you do the right thing, then you lessen your risks."
And when you're on a JetSki whale-watching tour, what is the 'right thing'?
"I keep a reasonable distance at all times. Sometimes they go down for a long time, and then they pop up right next to you. I don't intentionally try to be close to them. They're oblivious to the presence of all the other boats. They're aware that we're there, but when they come up, they come up, whether we're there or not."
Lockwood isn't alone on his excursions, taking family members and friends with him on what is an unforgettable experience.
"When they come up and blow, you can hear it from a long way away." Good thing Lockwood has a long lens.
To follow Lockwood's whale watching excursions, follow his Facebook page.