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conservation photographer brian skerry photographs “highly curious” southern right whales (and his assistant, mauricio handler) in the auckland islands marine reserve, which protects an area 300 miles south of new zealand’s south island.

“i’ve been diving for about 30 years, and i can honestly say that i’ve had some amazing encounters with sharks, squids, and other whales. but the encounter with the right whales in the auckland islands was probably the best thing i’ve ever done. it was just that amazing,” said skerry.

"i was swimming alongside this huge whale, kicking as hard as i can to keep up…i tried to keep up with it as long as i could, but i had to take a break, so i stopped and kneeled down on the bottom. instead of continuing, the whale stops and turns and waits for me.

"after a while it would get bored and go back up to the surface, so i would ascend to kind of remind it that i was still around. it would see me, and i’d go back down. and sure enough, the whale would follow me. It was like swimming around with a friend."

to get the pictures of forty foot long whales, skerry said “i ended up for the most part ditching the strobes and shooting available light. that meant i had to shoot at very high speeds, iso’s of 800, which did not offer the best resolution - it tends to be a little noisy or grainy. but it was what i had to do to get pictures, because there was never a lot of light.”

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