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Biggest blue whale? No, digital artwork using right whale photo

A screenshot of a tweet showing a giant whale swimming under a bridge, a smaller whale beside it, has been shared on Facebook in South Africa.

“One of the largest blue whales ever caught on camera during a helicopter ride,” the text reads.

The image itself has been widely shared on social media across the world since July 2019.

But does it really show a blue whale snapped from a helicopter?

‘Digital manipulation study’

With a reverse image search, we tracked the image down to the work of Umut Reçber, a digital artist based in Turkey.

Reçber posted it on Instagram on 26 July 2019, saying it was an artwork – not a real photo – titled “Mother”.

“This is my own digital manipulation study,” he wrote. “It was created by bringing two photos together. Photoshop was used as a tool. Thanks to everyone who conveyed their best wishes to me for the artwork I have done.”

Two photos, of bridge and right whales

A few days later Reçber reposted the image with the two original photos it was created from.

The photo of the bridge is from Unsplash, an online collection of free photos. It was uploaded by the user @chuttersnap, who is based in Singapore and lists drone photography as one of his interests. He describes the photo simply as a “grey concrete bridge”.

The photo of the two whales comes from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s image collection on Flickr

It shows a “right whale and calf” – not a blue whale.

Right whales grow to 20 metres

Right whales, according to Britannica, are “any of four species of stout-bodied whales”. They grow to about 20 metres in length.

Blue whales, on the other hand, are the most massive animals ever to have lived. They can grow to more than 30 metres long and weigh as much as 150 tonnes. 

The image itself is not false. It is an artwork created by a digital artist who did not claim it was real.

But the screenshot is false, because it claims the artwork actually shows “one of the largest blue whales ever caught on camera during a helicopter ride”. – Butchie Seroto


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