- Title: VARIOUS: Life-size whale pictures on display
- Date: 30th September 2009
- Summary: SANDEFJORD, NORWAY (SEPTEMBER 26, 2009) (REUTERS) BRYANT AUSTIN FROM MARINE MAMMAL CONSERVATION THROUGH THE ARTS ENTERING ROOM (SOUNDBITE) (English) DIVER BRYANT AUSTIN FROM MARINE MAMMAL CONSERVATION THROUGH THE ARTS, SAYING "The collection here represents the largest, most detailed photographs of whales produced in history and it also represents a departure from the way in which they have been photographed for the last forty years. These are life-size portraits and life-size composite photographs of the entire whale's body. The departure comes from the way I work with whales. I spend entire seasons with them and I wait for very exceptional individuals to come to me, less than two meters away where I can then make these life-size photographs."
- Embargoed: 15th October 2009 03:25
- Topics: Nature / Environment
- Reuters ID: LVADRXU6USFSHJFQNVG5X5KQE41P
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: The whaling museum in Sandefjord in southern Norway is currently exhibiting life-size photos of the world's largest animal.
Bryant Austin, a former marine researcher from the United States has spent much of the past five years snapping close-ups of whales.
"The collection here represents the largest, most detailed photographs of whales produced in history and it also represents a departure from the way in which they have been photographed for the last forty years. These are life-size portraits and life-size composite photographs of the entire whale's body. The departure comes from the way I work with whales. I spend entire seasons with them and I wait for very exceptional individuals to come to me, less than two meters away where I can then make these life-size photographs," he said.
To produce a single picture, a whale has to swim past Austin at a distance of no further than 2 meters (6 feet), during which the diver normally takes about 15 pictures of its sections with a specialised camera.
With a high powered computer and image-editing software, he morphs the separate photos into a single picture of the entire whale -- creating a detailed illustration without having to sacrifice the sense of the whale's gigantic proportions.
He said getting close to the animals was not as difficult as securing funding for the project:
"The most difficult to my surprise, has been the simple act of securing funding to carry out this work. Again, it has never been done before. It has been very challenging to receive the support to do this work. It's only this year that I have been working with whales at the level that I wish. I've been doing this for five years and it has taken that long to secure the funding," he said.
For the last five years Austin has dived with humpback whales in the Caribbean, sperm whales in the Pacific and minke whales off Australia trying to photograph the large animal.
The blue whale, the biggest creature ever to live on earth, with a tongue the size of an elephant, is too shy to approach.
He said that since most whales were shy or not interested in people, he had to seek out individuals that were curious or inquisitive, which could take three or four months of daily diving.
"It's my work with the minke whale that brought me here. The minke whale is considered to be the most friendly and inquisitive carnivore on the planet. I've spent weeks and weeks with them. I've spent six hours a day for five days with one whale in particular and I have this close relationship to them and this trust where they're literally so close to me I have to push off from them and they look at me and they're so gentle even though they weigh 30 tonnes," he said.
Austin said that despite extensive research, whales remained a mystery.
"The whales that are alive today, the species that are in existence today, have been in existence nine to thirty million years and they possess the largest brains to ever have existed on our planet, four to seven times the size of our own, and they're complex social animals so we're looking at 9 to 30 million years of evolving culture and communication that despite our four decades of study still is a mystery to us," he said.
The exhibition is pointedly being held in Norway, one of the world's only remaining countries that continues to hunt whales, defying an international memorandum.
Partly funded by Norwegian anti-whaling groups and designed to provoke public debate on the issue, the exhibition is being staged in a whaling museum in Sandefjord, a coastal town in southern Norway.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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