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Your average digital camera takes photos at a resolution of 10 million to 15 million pixels. That’s more than enough to take a detailed image of, say, Tokyo Tower. Now imagine a camera with almost five times that resolution — capturing a massive 50 million pixels in a single photo — and imagine taking it underwater to capture photos of the biggest mammals on the planet, whales, from as close as two meters.

What you end up with — as is apparent in an extraordinary exhibition now on show in Tokyo — are some of the most detailed photographs of some of the most loved but generally most inaccessible animals on the planet. The mind-boggling resolution of these photographs, which were taken by American Bryant Austin in the Caribbean, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere, means that they can be printed at life size — in other words, whale size. Not only that, but some have been joined into composite images so that the entire body of a single whale can be viewed in a single image — the largest is nine meters in length. You can literally experience what it feels like to come face-to-face with a whale.

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