Sperm whales and sharks… Animal photographer immortalizes underwater animals

“Diving with dolphins is nothing unusual. The wonderful thing is that I can meet these large animals in just a few minutes.”

Meryl Dress

We don’t really forget the kid we were. With her first book “Baie de Biscaye, les trésors du Gouf de Capbreton” which was published by Éditions Balea last November, Lillian Harstoy attests to this: “In 2016, it was the first time I dived with dolphins on the hollow. I’ve been doing this my whole life. I’ve been in my element, I can analyze their reactions, and anticipate. Last summer, when I finally met sperm whales, I had no fear. When I see a shark, I jump into the water. To find myself in the middle of a school of tuna, it’s magic. Everything I’ve read about it has impressed me. Drunken, not tired.

Lilan Harristoey: “When I see a shark, I dive. Without any apprehension.”

Lillian Harstoy

“Depth of 800 meters is different”

Here’s a self-taught animal photographer, after his BTS aquaculture studies, specializing as a river technician and first collegiate career, in the role of one who explores, discovers, and exhibits. Like his pygmalion.

He would not have thought that his stadium was not located in the distant latitudes but always at hand: by name, as many people do I suppose. The first time I actually practiced it was in 2016 for work we were planning to do, with a friend, on bluefin tuna. I have practiced ocean since my youth: fishing, spearfishing, surfing. But the open sea, I had few concepts. Being on the hollow, 800m below you, it’s different from anything I’ve been able to do before. »

For Lillian Harstoy, it all started with work on tuna: “I had a crazy day among tuna fish and pilot whales. This is the exact starting point for the book project.”

Lillian Harstoy

This is where Lillian Harstoy wants to be right now. Enthusiastically close to addiction. In embarking on his book project, the Basque was aware of only one thing, everything that had to be discovered: “In the hollow, there are not many of us. And in the water, I was alone to dive. The work is new and the images translated are exceptional. So much so that it has been blessed by Hugo Verlum, A marine writer and a great connoisseur of hollow media coverage, who introduces the book. She sparked enthusiasm for the follow-up to François Sarano, Doctor of Oceanography and former scientific advisor to Commander Cousteau.Life is a loop.

In respiratory arrest by cleansing

Lillian Harstoy’s work is unique in its approach to the Capriton government. Even diving mode, exclusively in case of apnea. To reach some form of purification, the photographer delivers. More pragmatically, because it is the least intrusive technique, when it comes to inserting the self into a wild environment where self-respect and esteem are enshrined in the highest commandments: “I’ve been practicing apnea for twenty years. I learned empirically, then got diplomas. On the hollow, surprisingly, I find Difficulty diving without an underwater camera. It is connected. Apnea helps to perceive my surroundings, I am awake. I do not have an unusual ability, I have an average level. Performance does not matter at all. But when I take pictures, I don’t count the time anymore. I I separate, even if I don’t put myself in the red.”
Hollow exercise is not the easiest. Lillian Harstoy brought her fellow exercisers in the pool there, who, realizing the depths beneath it, felt lost: “I know why I’m the only one who regularly gets into the water there. It’s the Atlantic. It’s a 4×4 dive. But I’m in my element. To live this alone, in front of Big animals, means self-exposure.”
Lillian Harstoy also describes this unparalleled silence … because it is filled with the sounds of the ocean and its inhabitants: “When you get used to it, you realize the deafening noise that oxygen cylinders can make. Or any human activity: an object falling on the deck of a boat frightens the animals below. Immediately. “

body and soul

From sunfish to pilot whales, an underwater ecosystem, in this very environment, which it has allowed itself to get close to, is rarely seen. This requires devoting body and soul to this relationship. For five years, Lillian Harstoy has been in demand, expanding her network as much as possible, an essential tool for her constant monitoring.

“I stopped surfing, I stopped hunting. My gear was always ready. Within twenty-five minutes, I was on my boat. Three-quarters of an hour later, I was on site. It was the first time I saw orcas thanks to a friend who warned me he was with them.” I was working at home.Within an hour I was there.My only concern was always knowing what was going on on the hollow.When I spotted these large animals,I only had one thing in mind:replayingthe photos.I knew sperm whales are hard to approach. It took me five years to take pictures of them I got Sowerby’s beak whale underwater Very rare, not to say inaudible Leaving the hollow is a breath of freedom, unpredictable, hypothetical. I often paint a blank. Diving in the water when A temperature of 14 or 15 degrees Celsius to not recover anything difficult. But you have to accept it. This is the ocean.”

An encounter with a sperm whale.
An encounter with a sperm whale.

Lillian Harstoy

look to the south

Exodus book, the flagship is not finished from the hollow. Moreover, it was possible, moreover, that this union between him and this great underwater valley would never be broken. The idea of ​​a children’s version appears. Those scientific studies too: “I’m collaborating with Apex Cetacea, a whale watching center based in Capbreton, but especially with Apex Research, its scientific branch. This season, Apex Research is launching a study on the bottlenose dolphin microbiome. This study by specialist Inès will provide Galtier d’Auriac data on the health status of animals in general and their environment. Lillian Harstoy also wants to follow sperm whales thanks to a protocol ratified by François Sarano.

“On the hull, the dolphins in front of the ship are more shy than pilot whales. It depends on the day »

Lillian Harstoy

It also heads south along the Spanish coast to Santander, where the valley widens up to 15 km and plunges to a depth of 3,500 metres. He talks about abyssal fish, submerged cetaceans and even giant squid: “The maps haven’t been mapped for a long time. We know the geology. But for wildlife, when I go there, I feel like I’m walking on the moon. We’ll try to explain because for now, in a living study On the hollow of Capriton, there’s nothing. We want to start the serious business with people who know. I’m not a scientist, but I want to understand what killer whales or pilot whales or sperm whales are doing there, and where they go and where they come from?”

“One day, I saw a female killer whale running fast. I thought it was being chased by a man. I searched for it for a long time, but could not cross its path.”

Lillian Harstoy

Pilot whales are among the most social of animals.
Pilot whales are among the most social of animals.

Lillian Harstoy

With respect to animals

When he goes to Capriton, Lillian Harstoy is in his little boots. He’s not at home and he knows it: “I never go near animals. I let them come to me, if they want. In general, outside they are curious. You have to be on their way, so they need to come and analyze you. If it’s not interesting, they leave.” The most incredible interactions are with pilot whales, which are hyper-connected.Here too we find the educational value of the book which, going forward, offers the discovery of some of these flights on video, via QR codes to be scanned.

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