Whales are the gentle giants of the ocean. They lead fascinating lives with lengthy migratory cycles, communicate through song, and are generally friendly toward humans. However, their habitats are constantly threatened and their species are in danger due to poor fishing practices. A couple of ways to raise awareness and understand what's at stake are whale photography, and when possible, taking the opportunity to see them up close. Mike Korostelev, a photographer and guide from Whale Watching Expeditions, knows this very well. He shares the fragile beauty of these beasts in a series of powerful underwater whale photographs.
Korostelev has been taking pictures of whales since 2016 and has traveled far and wide to do so. He's trekked to Tonga, Mauritius, Norway, Sri Lanka, and beyond and has swum with whales of all kinds. “I've always wanted to share my experience with people have who never seen whales but who dream of meeting them one day,” he tells My Modern Met.
To him, being in the ocean with these creatures is always a poignant experience. “It is very emotional to be with them underwater in their environment,” he shares. “Especially because they are huge and intelligent animals.” He also commends them as forgiving animals, given the painful history of whaling and the constant pressure mankind has put on them.
Like any genre of animal photography, taking pictures of whales is a whole endeavor that requires planning and plenty of patience. “For photos like these, you should be many hours and days in the ocean. You [go] searching [for] whales and wait [for] individuals who want to interact with you, who find you interesting. You need to have a lot of patience,” says Korostelev.
One of the most rewarding parts is welcoming other people to the experience of swimming with whales. “My role is to explain people that we are guests in the ocean,” he explains. “That we must respect animals. Respect their privacy, their current behavior.” These values shine through his images that double as pleas to protect the whales around the world as well as their homes.