Coming face to face with a shark is thrilling, but Canon Ambassador Chris Fallows also uses his breathtaking images to shine a light on iconic animals.
I always had a dream, swimming with whales.
When we are children, we dream big, and it doesn’t come much bigger than a whale. However, for most of us, our childhood dreams are literally just that – a dream. After a while, we are aware that they might not come true. Even photographer Gonzalo Pasquier didn’t think he would ever really find himself swimming alongside a real live whale.
French Polynesia in the South Pacific Ocean is one of the last places on earth where it’s possible to swim alongside the extraordinary humpback whale, but the whale’s presence varies within a seasonal window. So, when Spanish clothing brand Blue Banana teamed up with Canon and Moorea Moana Tours to make Gonzalo’s dream come true, it wasn’t guaranteed. After all, how do you control a 30,000-kilo whale?
But nevertheless, Blue Banana love an adventure. They embody the spirit of curiosity, care and adventure through their sustainable fabrics, recycled packaging and respect for nature. They encourage their young customers to travel and discover new worlds, but with respect for the natural world – leaving behind only footprints. They have recently launched a range of limited-edition clothing under the name ‘Cosmo’ and through it have been celebrating a host of special days, tied to their ethos. World Photography Day was the moment to give Gonzalo his chance, under the title ‘ONE SHOT: The photo I always wanted to take’, so that he could connect with his dream, with nature and with the whales in the most respectful and gentle way possible – through his Canon EOS R5.
Growing up to a colossal 17 metres in length, Humpback whales are awe-inspiring for their size alone, but their sheer size and power also makes them incredible to watch when they move through the water. And move they do – the humpback is famed for its incredible migration distances, thousands of miles between oceans, from cold water feeding grounds to the tropical climates in which they mate and breed. It is in these warmer seas that the famous ‘lullabies’ of male humpback whales can be heard during mating season, as they apparently ‘sing’ to potential partners.
On the twenty-day trip, Gonzalo and the tiny film crew were supervised by the on-board biologists of Moorea Moana Tours. They not only looked out for everyone’s safety but made sure that the whales were given space to continue their natural behaviours and movements while filming and photography took place. Although humpback whales are no longer considered an endangered species, they are still affected by pollution and collisions with ships. On Mo'orea, the French Polynesian island where Gonzalo met his whale, the very greatest care is taken to make the whole experience safe and non-invasive, which makes the final result all the more special.
On this paradise island, Gonzalo experienced his lifelong dream and was able to enter the water and join a whale. Regulations do not permit boats to get close to the whales, so he would swim around 100 metres from the vessel to the whale, under the supervision of Moorea Moana’s guides. And not only did he get to swim alongside them, but he captured amazing images of the magnificent animals that will be part of his memory forever.
So far, more than half a million people have shared in Gonzalo’s magical experience in Mo’orea through YouTube and by following his adventure on Blue Banana’s Instagram and Instagram stories. “I dreamed of swimming with these gentle giants for years,” he says on his personal Instagram. “Honestly, there are no words to describe the feeling of a massive whale coming right next to you.”
“It’s been a wild trip, in an amazing country with really great people”
Gonzalo took a Canon EOS R5 on his adventure and used a selection of Canon lenses throughout the trip: RF 24-70mm F/2.8L IS USM, RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM, RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM and EF 50mm f/1.2L USM.