Matt Draper has teamed up with Whale Watching Byron Bay to offer exclusive photography tuition workshops located around the pristine waters of Cape Byron Marine Park. No photography experience is needed. Providing your own photography equipment is recommended but not a requirement as use of a professional digital camera and telephoto lens will be available. Private tuition includes class time followed by whale watching onboard a certified vessel.

Whale Watching Byron Bay is the only company permitted by Parks and Wildlife to operate in the area. The local dive and whale watching facility was established over 20 years ago and ever since then its goal has always been to ensure customers enjoy a safe, rewarding and memorable time. With countless experience within the marine park, Matt is very familiar with the location, weather conditions and local migration routes of Cape Byron Marine Park. He has spent a lot of time educating himself on the Humpback whale and has interacted with the species all throughout the world. He is proud to be the first and only person in the area offering private photography tuition alongside the migrating whales. With a maximum of 3 people per workshop, Matt can utilise his time and ensure there is as much one-on-one tuition as possible.

Each year, between May and November, the Southern Hemisphere Humpback whales migrate from their Antarctic summer feeding grounds to their breeding and birthing grounds in the northern tropics. The population that migrates up the east coast of Australia is estimated to be close to 20,000 individuals.

Humpback whales are believed to use landmarks to assist with navigation. This trait is what ties them so close to the coast of Byron Bay. In the past this behavior made them vulnerable to commercial whaling operations and a dramatic decrease in the population was witnessed. Since commercial whaling ceased in the 1970s, the population has recovered significantly but is still considerably short of what it was prior to whaling.

The fact that Humpback whales travel in such close proximity to the shore line and that Cape Byron is Australia’s most easterly point makes this region one of Australia’s premier whale watching destinations. Here you can witness the Humpback whale migration, at close hand, without having to travel far. It is likely you will encounter several whales during your tour. Launching from The Pass, Byron Bay allows the quickest and easiest access to the waters used by these migrating mammals. There are no long boat rides to and from whale watching sites and your whale watching adventure begins immediately.

With the help of social media, there has never been more individuals showing such a positive interest in the preservation of our oceans and the life force that inhabits it.  Matt has noticed an ever growing number of people reaching out to him with questions regarding the marine life he interacts with and the photography equipment he uses daily. For this reason, he couldn’t think of a better time to start sharing his love for the ocean and photography by running exclusive tuition workshops for small groups and individuals alike.

When are tuition workshops available?

Tuition workshops are available throughout July 2016 with more dates to be added around Matt’s current assignments.

Do I need any photography experience?

No photography experience is needed. Tuition workshops cater for anyone from entry level, to advanced photographers who want to improve their skills.

Do I need my own camera and lens?

Providing your own photography equipment is recommended but not a requirement. Matt will provide his own professional digital camera and telephoto lens. Although he is confident in his skills, Matt isn't an expert on every camera model meaning knowledge of your own camera menus and functions is a priority.

Do I need any boating experience?

No boating experience is needed. Individuals who regularly get seasick are recommended to bring their own seasickness medication.

Will I get wet onboard the boat?

All of Whale Watching Byron Bay’s skippers will do their absolute best job to ensure each person remains as safe and dry as possible throughout the journey. Whale Watching Byron Bay (depending on availability of sizes) can provide a wind and spray proof jacket, in saying that we highly recommend bringing your own if you have one. All vessels are launched from the beach access at The Pass, Byron Bay meaning your feet and legs may get wet when entering the boat. We recommend wearing shorts or loose pants you can roll up above your knees. Shoes are not needed onboard and can be left in the vehicle that transports you to The Pass.

What credentials does Matt have?

Matt is a self-taught photographer. He has been practicing photography for two years and is very confident in his skills. As a photographer, Matt wants to help others the best he can. Classes are catered to each individual pupil and what they personally want to learn. Matt is an advanced scuba diver and an Apnea accredited free diver who has spent his entire life around the ocean. He has certificates in advanced resuscitation, emergency life support and senior first aid. Matt also holds a bronze medallion credited by the Australian Lifesaving Academy. Later this year he will be returning to the Kingdom of Tonga for a third time to work alongside the Humpback whales in their natural environment off the coast of Vava’u.

What does a normal day of tuition consist of?

Meet and greet.

2 hour photography tuition - in class.

15 minute break.

Whale watch briefing.

2.5 hour whale watching adventure - Including Julian Rocks marine life tour.

Image review and basic Photoshop tuition depending on time - in class.

Please note that time spent on each subject may vary depending on each individual’s skill level.

How many people will there be on each workshop?

Workshops will run with a maximum of 3 people to ensure as much one-on-one tuition as possible.

Where do I meet and what time?

Byron Bay Dive Centre.


9 Marvell Street, Byron Bay, New South Wales, 2481, Australia.

It is recommended you arrive 5 to 10 minutes early to fill out all of the necessary paper work and be familarised with the building.

A usual workshop will commence at 8am finishing around 2:30pm to 3pm.

Where can I park for free?

Byron Bay has recently installed parking meters throughout the CBD. The closet free parking to the Dive Centre is located on Tennyson Street outside the tennis club, which is less than a 5 minute walk from the Dive Centre.

What are some of the subjects that will be covered in the photography tuition class?

Shutter speed.

Aperture and depth of field.


Light meter and metering mode.

Custom white balance and presets.

Auto focus mode.

Focal points.

Drive mode.

Formatting memory cards.

Assembly and maintenance of camera and lens.

Basic to intermediate composition.

Learning how to better photograph and identify the unique pattern of pigmentation on the underside of a Humpback whale's tail fluke.

Basic to intermediate techniques on how to approach and interact with marine life.

Organisation and cataloging of images.

Editing images for print.

Are the subjects covered in the class tuition also related to underwater photography?

Yes, this is very similar to the class Matt teaches to his underwater photography students.

What type of camera and lens will be made available to use?

Matt uses a Canon 5D MK III digital camera and a Canon 100 - 400mm L series IS II USM lens to photograph the whales from a boat. Please note that this camera will be shared among all students who don’t have their own equipment.

What happens in the briefing?

A DVD will be shown and/or a briefing given by the skipper regarding the whale watching adventure. This will cover info on the boat launch, marine life, and other important safety aspects to consider.

Will we still head out on the whale watching boat if the conditions are bad?

If it is safe to launch the boat from The Pass and the weather conditions are favorable we will head out to look for whales. Swell, strong winds and heavy rain are some of the main contributing elements that can cause the boats to be cancelled.

How much time will I get onboard the whale watching boat?

Close to 2.5 hours depending on the weather conditions.

Who will be on the whale watching boat with me?

As well as Matt, there will be a trained eco guide a skipper and more than likely other customers onboard the boat.

Will I definitely see a Humpback whale to photograph?

Cape Byron is one of Australia’s most spectacular Humpback whale sites. It is well known for its abundance of marine life. Working with wild animals means there is never going to be a guarantee of seeing any one particular species, but your chances of seeing a Humpback whale are very high. As well as Humpback whales, dolphins, turtles and a variety of amazing sea birds can be seen inside the marine park.

Can I hear the whales from the boat?

Yes, all of Whale Watching Byron Bay’s vessels are equipped with a hydrophone so you can listen to the Humpback whales amazing song.

Is there any research conducted onboard the boat and I can be part of it?

Yes, each season many encounters with Humpbacks will be photographed by whale watch tour operators and their passengers. Some of these photos can provide potentially useful scientific information and currently represent an untapped source of important data.

Current studies involve the development of a catalogue of Humpback whale tail fluke photographs that have been collected by many people throughout the east coast of Australia. Each season the catalogue of fluke photos will be analysed using Fluke Matcher, a computerised matching system developed by SCU and the University of Newcastle.  

Is there a toilet onboard the boat?

No, we strongly recommend using the bathroom at the Dive Centre (Whale Watching) facility before we leave. There are also public toilets at The Pass that you can use before and after your whale watching experience.

What do I need to bring?


Sunblock and a hat.


Warm clothing (e.g. fleece, warm head wear).

A warm, water/wind proof jacket.

Shorts/Loose pants you can roll up above the knees (you will get your feet wet)

One towel.

Light snacks and a drink bottle - we will not be having a lunch break, but there will be plenty of time to snack during the day.

Any medication you may need/use such as an asthma inhaler or sea-sickness tablets.


A portable hard drive or USB to take your images home - this is paramount.

All camera equipment you currently own or use with at least one charged battery.

Your own laptop and editing software that you use - please make sure your laptop is charged.

How much does the workshop cost?

All prices are listed in Australian (AUD) dollars. Prices, specifications, availability and terms of offers may be changed at any time without notice. Correct prices and promotions are validated at the time your order is placed.

$400.00 per individual student.

What if I want to cancel?

Cancelations outside of 72 hours will be refunded in full. Any cancelations inside of 72 hours will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Will the workshop still go ahead if the conditions are not suitable for whale watching on the day?

Yes, the 2 hours class tuition will still go ahead. You will be offered the choice of rescheduling the Whale Watching experience to a later date or refunded the amount of $200.00.

Current dates available:

Simply click on the preferred date to make your booking.

If the date you are looking for isn't listed, please feel free to send Matt an email.

Saturday 17 September - Available

Sunday 18 September - Available

Monday 19 September

Tuesday 20 September

Wednesday 21 September - Available

Thursday 22 September

Friday 23 September

Saturday 24 September - Available

Sunday 25 September - Available

Monday 26 September

Tuesday 27 September

Wednesday 28 September - Available