Coming face-to-face with a Southern Right Whale and its calf was not scary at all, according to a Tasmanian underwater photographer.
Danny Lee, of Submerged Images Tasmania, had heard on Thursday that a mother and its calf had been cruising around the Bay of Fires region for about a week.
“We thought we’d just go and have a look … We tried to pick a spot where she would swim by or would come in for a rest,” Lee said.
About eight years ago, Lee remembered two whales and a calf spending about two hours in Skeleton Bay.
“I thought she’s heading that way so let’s just risk it,” he said.
“We swum out about 50 metres off the rocks and just waited and sure enough the mother and the calf came straight into us and swum around us for about 40 minutes.”
Lee said the whales looked him and his free-diving partner Quinton Schlieben right in the eyes.
“It was like the mother was actually showing the calf what humans look like,” Lee said.
“We’re still buzzing.”
Lee said the mother was about 12 metres long.
“The female was absolutely massive … the calf was about four-and-a-half metres long, so it was pretty big itself,” he said.
Lee set up the photo with the hope it would pay off.
“We knew she was coming back. So I said to Quinton ‘just go down and kneel on the bottom’. We were free diving, so we had to have pretty good breath holds. We just went down and sure enough she came back in and swam right by,” he said.
Lee said the experience was “definitely not” scary.
“There was not one second that we felt intimated, or that the whale felt uncomfortable. They were just doing things on their terms. We didn’t follow them at all,” he said.
While Lee acknowledges underwater free-dive photography is a different ball game to land photography, he said the key was to relax, and to train.
“Free diving is a lot easier than diving with gear, but you do rely on a decent breath hold. You do have to train,” he said
“You have to hold your breath long enough to get a good enough picture and enjoy the sea life while you’re down there.”
It took Lee about 60 seconds to get the shot.
“It was a challenging shot, there’s not much chance you’re going to get a whale to sit there and pose,” he said.
On Friday, Lee said his photo was in hot demand and spent most of the day printing copies.
“It was just so lovely, we were so lucky,” he said.
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment have been contacted for comment.