If I had to describe Bryant Austin’s book, “Beautiful Whale,” in one word, it would be *amazing*. Just looking at the photographs of whales up close is enough to make you go wow, but his accounts of how he got the pictures are just as awe-inspiring.
Austin’s visually stunning oversized coffee table book is based on the life-sized pictures he takes of whales. Taking photographs so close and in so much detail is much easier said than done. He must be within 6 feet of a whale, and he patiently waits for the whale to come to him. He also uses a large state-of-the-art 50 megapixel Hasselblad camera.
Austin’s epiphany to photograph whales came after a female humpback whale gently tapped him on the shoulder with her 15 foot, 2 ton pectoral fin (front flipper). Austin had been interacting with her calf and the ever-watchful mom wanted Austin to know that she was watching him. Austin describes the moment as seeing the “calm mindful expression of a whale’s eye looking into my own eyes.” Little did that whale know the path she would send Austin down!
In perusing the book the first time, I was awestruck by the details in each picture. Not only were the eyes soulful, but every pockmark, birthmark, and scratch told their own story about that whale. Austin covers 3 different kinds of whales in this book: the humpback whale, the sperm whale, and the minke whale.
I was privileged enough to attend Austin’s gallery showing of “Beautiful Whale” at the Museum of Monterey in Monterey, California (it runs until September 2, 2013). Although I could have spent hours staring at his life-size and length whale photographs, I only had a few minutes to indulge them with 2 young children in tow. I did take a picture of them with Enigma, a sperm whale, and of course I couldn’t get the whole 20 foot long whale in one frame!
The most amazing part of Austin’s encounters with the whales is that he waits patiently until they approach him. The results are worth his patience, but there are not many among us that could wait weeks to get the prize-winning shots.
I had first heard of Austin when I read about how he first showed his work in whaling countries like Japan and Norway. His work was well received, and this speaks volumes for the power Austin’s photographs have.
If you are a whale or animal lover, you must check out this book. Even if you are neither, I promise that at least one picture in his book will move you.
Check out Bryant Austin’s website
Visit Austin’s exhibit at the Museum of Monterey (MOM), open until January 2, 2014