A kayaker had a scary experience with a group of Orcas which resulted in amazing photos.

Liam Brennan

The kayaking photographer in the waters around Vancouver felt a wide range of emotions – from awe and terror to exhilaration – when a group of killer whales swam around his small boat.

On May 10, Liam Brennan was kayaking casually when he saw something incredible – orcas swimming in front of the Vancouver skyline and even jumping up with Washington’s Mount Baker in the background. He was able to take amazing photos of this scene.

He told PetaPixel that he heard what sounded like a whale far away. When he looked at the horizon, he saw the high dorsal fin of a male orca, and he knew his dream was coming true.

Brennan said he saw a group of orcas about one kilometer (two-thirds of a mile) away, but then they dove under the water and came about ten to fifteen meters (thirty to fifty feet) from his kayak.

Liam Brennan

He says that he was once surrounded by two big male orcas, whose dorsal fins were taller than him.

The fins on these orcas were over six feet long. The mother was right behind them. I talked to researchers and we figured out that these orcas are transient and eat marine mammals. That’s different from the resident orcas that live in British Columbia’s Salish Sea.

Liam Brennan

Brennan, who is a handy photographer and has recently graduated from an undergraduate environmental science course, says this was an experience unlike any other.

He states that he was nervous, as he was aware that killer whales have rarely attacked humans in the wild, apart from reports of an incident in the Strait of Gibraltar.

I was quite reassured, but I was also filled with awe, terror, and excitement all at the same time. I feel very fortunate that the photos turned out okay. I’m glad I had the instincts and the knowledge to depend on.

Science and Photography

Brennan loves photography and ecology. He could recognize different orcas by noticing the bumps and cuts in their fins, the big space behind the fin, and the special pattern around the eye.

My images were clear enough for a researcher to accurately identify the pod, and for the spyhopper you could actually see its head to tell apart each one.

These photos stretching all the way back to 1969 helped Brennan identify the orcas.

It’s amazing what science can do! I can look back and read news articles about these whales. People watched them hunting sea lions and porpoises, and even eating a whale – a meal much bigger than me and the kayak – which was really cool!

Recording video footage of Killer Whales

Brennan has a new Canon mirrorless R6 that he kept at home, because saltwater and electronics don’t go together, so he used an old Canon 6D that he calls “ancient”.

He says he also has the old 100-400mm Canon L lens, and that the older technology will still do the trick.

I always carry my DSLR camera with me, just in case a situation like this arises. I had imagined taking pictures of skylines a long time ago. This contrast of views is quite unique and I haven’t seen anyone else take a picture like it.

He used a Canon 6D with a full-frame sensor and a 200mm lens to take pictures of how close the orcas were to him.

Brennan says that it really shows how close these animals came to him.

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