Meet the 'marine whisperer' who has spent decades photographing ocean creatures

A woman known as a ‘marine whisperer’ has spent her days swimming, photographing and researching sea life.

Jodi Frediani, 75, from Santa Cruz, California, is a marine photographer and whale researcher – which means she’s spent a large chunk of her life in water, working with all types of marine wildlife.

Her passion means she now sees whales as part of her family.

She said: ‘My favourite part of the job is the friendly encounters I have, where whales approach boats and hang out with us.

‘Or even friendly encounters in the water, where courting whales seem to enjoy the company of snorkelers nearby.’

She has always ‘loved animals’ and being on boats, then ‘fell in love’ with whales when she first swam with them as a child.

Her dad then gave her a camera aged 12, when she could access boats on Monterey Bay, California, meaning marine photography became her natural calling.

Jodi added: ‘I’ve spent up to three days per week on the water in Monterey Bay over a 12-year period, sometimes on all-day trips as well as spending 44 weeks out on the Silver Bank, Dominican Republic, swimming with humpback whales.

‘A typical day may be spent on a boat taking photos of humpback whale flukes as they make deep dives, with their flukes out of the water.

‘Then I spend time at the computer picking out the best photos of each, enhancing them where necessary, labelling and submitting them to catalogs, as well as working on scientific papers and posters too.

‘I also particularly enjoy taking photos of each species to showcase their behaviour and individual personalities. I hope sharing these with others will foster their love of whales and the ocean and encourage them to protect both.’

Jodi began working as a citizen scientist, taking fluke ID photographs of humpback whales on the Silver Bank.

‘After watching two humpback whales investigate a grey whale calf carcass killed by killer whales the day before in Monterey Bay, I worked with colleagues to prepare my first scientific paper published in the journal Aquatic Mammals,’ she said.

‘There are a lot of horror stories about whales being killed, but a lot of the time, it is by vessels.

‘Fortunately, I’ve never seen it happen, but I have photographed a healthy, pregnant blue whale that was killed by a large shipping vessel. Her carcass and that of her foetus washed ashore north of Santa Cruz at Bean Hollow State Beach.’

She also worries because ‘too many’ whales get stuck in lobster and crab traps, which can lead to a slow, painful death.

‘Over the years, I have managed to learn the behaviours of the species I wish to photograph by spending as much time as I can with the whales, observing them closely,’ she said.

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