The results of a remarkable quest by two Australian photographers to observe and record the lives and behaviour of some of the world’s whales have just become available in the new book, Looking for Whales.
In 2005, Wade and Robyn Hughes began steeping themselves in the lives and forbidding habitats of these mysterious beings – for however long it would take to bring back meaningful images and experiences.
Nearly 15 years of effort and 14 expeditions have resulted in this extraordinary book published by Halstead Press and endorsed by Australian Geographic.
Wade Hughes is not merely a wildlife photographer, but an underwater artist with the camera, who has been diving since his youth. His wife Robyn is also an award-winning nature photographer.
They have chosen photos from their black and white collection, taken underwater and above, which illustrate whales being themselves in different moods and phases of life.
Nowhere before has there been such an uncontrived and revealing visual presentation of whales in their natural realm, introduced by such well-informed explanations of the experience of associating with them. Looking for Whales combines photographs of several species’ behaviour with text by Wade providing context, and evoking the circumstances of each encounter, and the feelings and insights it produces.
The photographs depict several fascinating and elusive species: Humpbacks, Sperm Whales, Fin Whales, Orcas and False Orcas, in various stages of their life cycles and migration cycles. The authors travel the world’s oceans, from Arctic waters in winter, to tropical atolls where calves are born in the Pacific, the mid-Atlantic off the Azores, the wilds of Alaska, and other widely separated locales.
“Whales always fascinated me,” says Halstead Press publisher Matthew Richardson, “but only when I saw Wade and Robyn’s pictures could I feel any sense of what it’s like to be at home amongst whales, expressing the moods and displaying the textures of real life. The opportunity to publish the book was irresistible.”
Wade and Robyn see their book as the natural extension of their highly successful Looking for Whales exhibition, “In the book, we are able to bring more images to the surface, and through the texts, add explanatory context to the behaviour we’ve observed,” they said. “We’ve aimed for an interesting and entertaining book, in the hope that it will help support wide-spread appreciation of these thought-provoking and imposing animals.”
Wade Hughes, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Member of the Explorers Club of New York, took up underwater photography in the 1960s. After retiring from a corporate career in Australia, the USA and the Middle East, he now devotes his time to conservation photography and writing. He has repeatedly been an Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year finalist, winning the 2016 award for the year’s best animal portrait.
In 2017 Britain’s Natural History Museum selected his humpback whale entry in the year’s Best 100 photographs. On 9 November 2019 he was awarded Highly Commended; Third Place, Underwater Category, Nature Photographer of the Year, 2019 for his image titled: Close Inspection that features Looking for Whales; and Finalist: Underwater Category, Nature Photographer of the Year, 2019 for the image titled: Not A Moment To Spare.
Robyn Hughes, who began diving in the 1980s, is an award-winning wildlife and documentary photographer, who has travelled in almost 60 countries. Wade’s and Robyn’s 2017 Looking for Whales exhibition in Fremantle, Western Australia earned critical acclaim in Australian and international media. Their images hang in exclusive collections in the USA, Australia and Britain.
Image: Looking for Whales – courtesy of Halstead Press