What began as a sea lion photo shoot led to a very special moment captured by a Vancouver Island photographer.
The image was taken a few years ago, according to Campbell River photographer Ryan Miller, but had not been shared publicly until recently. Miller says he happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture an orca celebration dance.
“I was out on assignment with Sea Legacy, and we had just finished scuba diving around Hornby Island for the day when we saw some commotion offshore,” said Miller.
“It was a group of about 40 sea lions feeding on a school of herring. We got our cameras out and we started taking some photos and that’s when we saw the first large dorsal fin heading towards us with two smaller fins trailing behind.”
Miller says the sea lions immediately went into defence mode, forming into a tight pack and started moving towards their boat. Without anywhere to go, they shut off the engine and the orcas went into hunting mode, taking out two sea lions over the course of around 30 minutes.
The photo came in the aftermath of the hunt, which Miller says provided the perfect opportunity to snap the moment.
“After a successful hunt, the whales tend to do kind of a happy dance a lot of the time. They usually start breaching multiple times and they’ll spy hop and that’s when I captured that image,” Miller explained.
“Everything just happened to line up perfectly. The sun had set, it was a cold winter day, the water was calm as glass and the three gulls overhead were picking the last of the sea lion scraps.”
Miller says he took about 2,000 photos that afternoon, and that shot really stood out from the rest.
“I was pretty stoked. I have a lot of great photos from that day but that one was special. It was just different, so symmetrical.”
Miller’s website has a portfolio of photographs that can be viewed, and prints are available as well.