Tony Wu Photography

Looking for the perfect present?

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Give the gift of nature and help safeguard some whales

If you're looking for a present for a child, someone you know who loves the natural world, or even yourself, please consider one of the cetacean-themed prints below, featuring some of my favourite whale photographs. Each print is hand-made on museum-quality 100% art rag paper with archival inks and shipped with a certificate of authenticity. Prices start from US$35, and I will donate 10% of the sales price for all whale prints to Oceanswell, a marine conservation research and education NGO founded by my friend Asha de Vos, who is working hard to learn about and protect the marine life in Sri Lanka, where I have spent a considerable amount of time.

Asha's primary focus is on cetaceans, which are clearly important to me. In addition to conducting primary research, Asha invests considerable effort in outreach work to share knowledge with anyone who will listen, especially kids. As is the case in many other areas, ship strikes and entanglements pose real threats to marine mammals. The recent boom in the whale watching industry has also led to an accompanying boom in tourists without permits or relevant experience jumping into the water and harassing whales.

Education and sharing of information with the people and decision-makers of Sri Lanka is the only constructive way to address these issues.

If you'd like to help Asha directly, please feel free to donate at this link.

Click the images below to enlarge.

sociable social unit

This is part of a social unit, which you can think about as sort of like a family of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). Social units are not entirely equivalent to human families though. They are more similar to the social structure of elephants and orcas. Social units are matrilineal, meaning made up of females and their progeny, and there are no mature males in the groups. Big boys leave the units and fend for themselves.

I had the opportunity to get to know the whales in this photo over the course of several hours. In front is an adult female, quite likely the matriarch of this group. Among the whales in the background are three juveniles. Their natural curiosity and playfulness proved to be the key to having excellent interaction with this social unit. Once one of the young whales came over to check me out, the others simply couldn’t resist.

Also of interest, note the bone structure of the adult whale’s pectoral fin. See the resemblance to the structure of our hands?

whales watching

People often speak of whale watching, with the phrase meant to convey the act of traveling to sea on a boat for the purpose of observing whales in their natural habitat. What most people perhaps may not realize is that as much as people watch whales, they also watch us. Any animal in the wild must maintain some level of vigilance, however minor any given potential threat might be. It is natural, therefore, for animals to watch us as much as we watch them.

Pictured here are three humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). The young calf is clearly looking straight at me. The adult female to the right, his mother, is watching both her offspring and me. And in the background, there is a male escort whale accompanying the female and calf. He is keeping a figurative eye on everything taking place.

The only way to capture images of intimate moments like this with intelligent, watchful marine mammals is to understand and respect that the whales are watching every move you make. Trust is a prerequisite.

gray whale greeting

Each winter in the northern hemisphere, gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) raise their babies in the warm waters of two major lagoons in Baja California, Mexico. The young whales spend time nursing and exercising in protected waters, learning from their doting mothers.

During this period, many gray whale females and their calves take an interest in tourist boats carrying visitors from near and far, often approaching to initiate interaction. In most circumstances, seeking direct contact with wild animals is not a good idea. But here, it is the whales who seek out people for what can only be called play.

This little whale repeatedly approached the boat I was in, seeking out contact with all on board. The young whale's mother was always nearby. It seemed, in fact, as if the adult led her offspring to the boat and insisted that the calf engage with the humans. You can see the top of the mother’s back in this photo, just behind the friendly calf.

 

blue in blue

Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are the largest multi-cellular animals that have ever existed on our planet. This one well exceeded 20 meters (65 feet) in length. The whale had just spent several minutes cruising slowly at the ocean surface, breathing deeply to replenish its air supply. Once that was accomplished, the whale commenced its descent to search for another meal of krill in deeper water. I had positioned myself at 10 meters (33 feet) depth or so, waiting, hoping that the whale would come my way. It did. The whale dived right in front of me and looked me over before fading back into the blue below.

 

spread your fins and fly

Sometimes 40+ tons takes you by surprise. Sitting on the bow of a boat in choppy seas, I was chatting with a friend. Hearing a sudden collective yelp from others, I saw my friend’s eyes widen and look behind me. On instinct, I raised my camera, turned 180º and pressed the shutter. No one was more surprised than I was that I caught this humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) at the apex of his breach, body catapulted from the water in full glory, glistening sunlit sea spray offset against darker background tones of tropical ocean blue and stormy gray.

 

I also have prints of other subjects available for purchase. Please see below for some samples and more information. I will prepare and add more images from time to time. You can also check https://artandedition.com/collections/tony-wu/ to see an overview of fine art nature prints I currently have available for purchase.

Greetings Landlubber

Young sea lions like to play. This little one, an endangered Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) settled on beautiful white sand in a shallow bay with water so perfect it seemed as if we were in a swimming pool. His purpose? To gawk at me, the awkward landlubber struggling (without much success) to be graceful and elegant in the ocean, in the manner of a sea lion. Perhaps taking pity on one so disadvantaged, the polite pinniped invited to me to play, which we did for many hours thereafter.

Night Lights

Luciola parvula fireflies appear in the spring and summer in Japan, at different times varying with location.

Fireflies use bioluminescence displays for courtship and reproduction. Each type of illuminated insect has a unique flashing pattern, to ensure that they can distinguish members of their own kind, as different species sometimes overlap in range and period of activity. Himebotaru fireflies flash briefly as they move, producing a circular, or roughly circular, pattern of light when photographed.

In real life, the insects in a given area do not all illuminate at once. They come and go, travelling around looking for mates. 

To capture this image, I set up my camera and stayed in one location for four and a half hours. Due to the extended time period and unpredictability of firefly appearance and movement, I maintained vigil and manually triggered my camera whenever I thought that an interesting insect or insects would come into frame. In the end, I took 114 frames, manually adjusting settings as conditions changed, from which I selected frames to create this final composite image that compresses 4.5 hours of time into a fictional, but representative, moment that strives to convey the magnificence and artistry of life on Earth.