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Swimming with the giants of the oceans

This project started many moons ago, August 2014 with a single, quiet image. 

"Love Scars: 
A baby calf swam past us, ever so slowly. Baby humpback whales are very light in colour, almost white. Within days soft scratches on their skin become visible. These scratches are caused by mum and the baby affectionately rubbing against each other. I like to think that the more scratches they have, the more loved they were"

Not too long ago I went back to Tonga to continue working on the project. Every year, every season and every interaction is so different and a strange mix of nervousness and excitement takes over. The night before our first swim I wrote down "Tomorrow we start our first whale swim. The last 24 hours just feel like such a blur, so many things felt so out of control these last few weeks, having this process of preparing the equipment, testing it, it feels very methodical. It's an interesting process, a ritual almost, because it kind of gives you a little bit of control when really, you don't have much. It helps me get ready, when I know there are certain elements that are in place and the rest is all to chance, makes me feel a bit better amongst all the chaos, that is now." 

The days start early and majority of the time is spent looking for whales in the endless ocean. Sometimes it takes no time at all and sometimes we would be floating around for hours with the guides looking for distinctive "blows" and whale "footprints" on the horizon. Searching for little glimpses of the world beneath. In between the hours of searching and swimming, I would nod off into extremely vivid dreams. I think this is one of the only times in my life where I was left alone with my brain for that many hours, no phones, no distractions, ocean and hours of blue around us. I would often fall sleep with my mask and fins on and then when it was time to swim I would plunge into the ocean and suddenly enter a different kind of universe. 

It's beautifully silent down there and there is a certain kind of energy that vibrates through the ocean, an incredible presence of these gentle giants that love, dance, hurt, and cry just like we do. 

This project is far from finished but it's been a wonderful journey discovering it.  A small snippet of "Love Scars" can be found on my website 

 

Stills and video captured on:

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II | PT-EP13 Underwater Case | M.ZUIKO PREMIUM 12 mm F2.0 | M.ZUIKO PREMIUM 25 mm F1.8 | M.ZUIKO PREMIUM 60 mm F2.8 Macro