Home' Afloat : December 2013 Contents Take monthly with water December 2013 29
Weaver Snap Davits, Stern Rails, BBQs, Custom Stainless
Fabrication, Davco Cranes and Davits, Deck Chocks and
Cradles, Inflatable Boats, Electric Inflators and More.
• Mobile Installation Service Available
• Agents In Most States
How do you
stow your dinghy?
WE HAVE THE SOLUTION
Ph: 02 9905 5800 | www.sternfirst.com.au
down his fluke one more time. The newborn manoeuvred his
five-foot wide fluke precisely by my mask less than a foot away.”
But then came the electrifying moment that was to change
Bryant Austin’s life.
“It was,” he says, “one which would forever seal my bond with
whales and the way in which I work with them.”
It began with a firm but gentle tap on his shoulder. It was too
solid a tap to be human, and as he turned to look, he suddenly
found himself eye-to-eye with the calf’s mother. She had extended
the tip of her two-ton, 15ft long pectoral fin and positioned it
in such a way as to gently touch his shoulder. He had ended up
between the mother and her calf, a position which is, he says,
“ She could have easily broken my back,” he writes, “and I
found myself physically shaken by her massive size, which made
her delicate restraint all the more meaningful. My entire field of
view was enveloped by her body. Her eye was fully illuminated
by the late afternoon sunlight coming over my shoulder. Taking
her in as she slowly glided by, I saw for the first time the calm,
mindful expression of a whale’s eye looking into my own eyes.
“In that moment she was completely transformed and was
no longer a whale; that word suddenly became meaningless. In
this overwhelming sensation of unfamiliarity, I saw clearly what
had been missing in 35 years of whale photography: intimate
moments such as these documented at full scale and on the
To this day, he says, he is at a loss for words to explain the
series of events that those two whales initiated.
“ The first whale encouraged me to lower my camera,” he
writes, “while the second made physical contact, allowing me to
see with my own eyes exactly what had been missing. Had the
camera been held to my eye, the inspiration would have been
lost and the photos would have been lost.”
Austin was on a mission, but was, he admits, painfully
naïve about what it would take to compose photographs that
re-created the sensations he felt with those two whales. He
started a non-profit organization and began sharing the idea
of creating, printing and exhibiting life-size portraits of whales
in galleries throughout the world. Although the idea sounded
absurd to many, he felt that if he could bring the vision out of
his head and on to photographic paper he would be making an
The inspiration was so powerful and clear that it led him
to quit his job and sell his home and car to fund 124 days in
the field. He soon discovered that he had placed himself at the
bottom of a steep and painfully frustrating learning curve. His
photographs could not be reproduced to scale because he was
still too far away from the subject.
“ The most difficult realization,” he writes, “ was that 10 feet was
too far away to capture all of the fine detail and subtle changes
in tone that I wanted in my work. Most important, it was too far
away to effectively capture the whale’s iris and pupil.
“Swimming up to a whale to make these photographs was out
of the question. My goal has always been to find whales curious
enough to initiate a close inspection of me. It is much safer to
remain motionless and allow the whale to move past. This way
I am more predictable, allowing the whale to make finely tuned
adjustments of its body in relationship to my own. Better yet,
the whale may very well initiate a second or third inspection as
a result of my respectful and predictable behaviour.
“ The closer I can be to whales, the more ‘real’ they become.
At 10 feet away their bodies fill my entire field of view and they
become almost over whelming. When these moments occur I
simply have to surrender, remain motionless and allow the whales
to move around me, and they do so with great precision. Even
if their eyes are 40 or more feet away from their flukes, if I don’t
move, they will keep their tails out of my way with astounding
“ These are massive animals that can reach lengths in excess
of 90 feet and weigh up to 200 tons. They can easily bring me
Humpback whale mother and calf.
Links Archive November 2013 January 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page