Bryant Austin is a portrait photographer. But instead of capturing people with his camera, he dives underwater to create these incredible portraits of whales. His photographs capture the entirety of these huge mammals’ bodies, or focus on the details of their expressive faces and eyes. There is something enormously powerful about these images of the other intelligent creatures who share the planet with us. We’ve got a gallery from Austin’s new art book, Beautiful Whale
Photographer and conservationist Bryant Austin is the only photographer in the world producing high-resolution, life-size photography of whales. A chance encounter with a humpback calf and its mother helped Austin develop a technique to create detailed, intimate portraits of his subjects. Spending weeks and months with groups of whales off Tonga, Dominica, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Austin immerses himself in the water and remains motionless, waiting for humpback, sperm, and minke whales that are sometimes forty-five feet in length and weigh as much as fifty tons to come within six feet.
Beautiful Whale features Austin’s unprecedented portraits of whales at sea that range from remarkable close-ups, with a special focus on the eye, to full-body portraits that are mosaics of hundreds of images.
Humpback Whale Calf II
Humpback mother and calf, Ha’apai Islands, Kingdom of Tonga
Mozart and his mother, a five-image composite photograph that could not be brought to life-size dimensions.
Humpback whale mother resting, October 11, 2006. For twenty minutes this humpback whale rested in a vertical head-down position, with her tail out of the water most of the time. In this position she would slowly spin on her vertical axis, while her calf swam around her waiting for an opportunity to nurse. She may have been listening for singing males.
My first encounter with Can Opener as she exhibits a possible threat display. Can Opener’s family is closely related to Scar and Enigma’s family, and they are often observed together.
Sperm Whale Composite Two, April 2011. It took me four months to raise sufficient funding to build a computer powerful enough to complete this image-measuring ten by thirty-six feet-of Scar. The working file is roughly 60 gigabytes in size and required more than 240 gigabytes of memory in Photoshop. To meet this challenge, I built a computer with 48 gigabytes of RAM with ten 60-gigabyte SATA III solid-state hard drives (SSD) for the Photoshop scratch disk. I configured an additional two 60-gigabyte SATA III SSDs to temporarily store this file, allowing me to save it in less than twenty minutes as opposed to the hour plus it took two years previously to save Sperm
Minke Whale Portrait 1346, 2009. This is the only life-size portrait of Ella’s right profile.
Minke Whale Composite Portrait 1186, July 2009. This is a two-image composite photograph of Ella.