Swimming with whales is not a typical task in most job descriptions, but it’s just a day in the life for TEDxSanJoseCA speaker Bryant Austin, a photographer who snaps images of these gentle giants from hardly 10 feet away.

In a quest to prevent the extinction of whales of all kinds — from humpback to minke — Austin uses his photography to create life-sized portraits of these creatures: one of which took over 200 hours to make and weighed a whopping 1,200 pounds.

At the top, a selection of his photographs — and below his talk on his process and the wonder of seeing a living, breathing whale up close:

Bryant Austin is a photographer who snaps images of giant whales from hardly 10 feet away. In a quest to prevent the extinction of these gentle giants, he puts together life-sized portraits of these creatures — one which took over 200 hours to make and weighed a whopping 1,200 pounds — to help the public realize just what a whale really looks like.


At the top, a selection of his photographs — and above — his talk from TEDxSanJoseCA, during which he speaks on his process and the wonder of seeing a living, breathing whale up-close.

(Photos: Top, AP/Koji Sasahara. All others, Bryant Austin)

The road less traveled: the 5 best TEDxTalks on adventure to watch before you set off

With a new year comes new adventures, and to ring in 2013, here are 5 talks to inspire you to follow through on those new year’s resolutions to be more adventurous, climb Mount Everest, see the pyramids, or just to get out more:

Walking the Amazon: Ed Stafford at TEDxSalford

Forging ahead against the advice of experts, Ed Stafford became the first person to walk the length of the Amazon river, a journey that took two and a half years. At TEDxSalford, he recounted his incredible odyssey trailblazing along the world’s longest river.

Think small: Alastair Humphreys at TEDxOxbridge

After spending more than four years circumnavigating the world by bike, Alastair Humphreys returned home inspired to help other people experience the thrill of adventure. In his talk at TEDxOxbridge, he explained that anyone can create their own mini trek, whether it’s a mountain bike race or a weekday mountain climb.

John Haskell of Atlantic Dash at TEDxCardiff

After John Haskill’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, he and a fellow firefighter set off to raise money by rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. In this thrilling talk, he described the epic scale and challenges of life at sea.

The wages of fear: Andy Kirkpatrick at TEDxHull

Fighting fear, self-doubt, and the warnings of locals, Andy Kirkpatrick attempted to scale the massive Troll Wall in Norway three times before finally turning back just 50 meters from the top. Along the way, he discovered that life is about the journey, not the destination, as he relates in this lighthearted talk with a heartwarming message.

Photographing whales large as life: Bryant Austin at TEDxSanJoseCA

Bryant Austin gave up his career, his marriage, and his savings to swim with whales in the deep ocean for up to six months at a time. Through the tales of his profound encounters with endangered whale species, he makes a call for understanding these gentle giants of the sea.