A photographer who dived into the water with a huge pod of killer whales only had a few minutes each day to capture a rare shot of an orca bathed in light rays.
Shot in a Norweigan fjord, Dan Zafra from Capture the Atlas says that getting the light rays with the orcas was very challenging.
“It’s only possible during the first days of November when the Sun still rises high enough to be over the mountains and to hit the water in the fjords,” Zafra tells PetaPixel.
“This happens for just a few minutes a day, and at the same time, you need a close encounter with the orca and the animal in the right spot where the light rays are hitting. This is a very coveted picture by any orca underwater photographer.”
Zafra explains that encounters with orcas can be very brief, but some individuals will get curious about the humans in their water world and investigate for a few minutes.
However, before having an encounter, budding underwater photographers must find the fortitude to step into the orcas’ arena.
“The first time I jumped into the water to see the orcas, it was very intimidating. It’s difficult to describe the feeling when you see a giant male dorsal fin coming to you and you have to jump in the water with that enormous apex predator,” says Zafra.
“However, after you spend some time seeing the orcas and their behavior, you can see that they are very intelligent animals and I have never felt nervous or scared, even while being surrounded by them when they were feeding on herring.”
Northern Norway sees the largest gathering of orcas in the world, attracting more than 500 known individuals.
“Until recently, we didn’t know much about where these orcas are coming from as they only spend the months from November to January in the Northern Norwegian Fjords,” says Zafra.
“Thanks to the work of organizations like the Norwegian Orca Survey which does photo identification, we know that some of these individuals spend the rest of the year in waters of the Atlantic Ocean like Iceland.”
To capture the marvelous photos, Zafra used a Sony a7 III astromodified in an Ikelite housing case. Given how close the encounters are, he used a Sony 14mm f/1.8.
“I was glad I changed the lens and some encounters were so close that even a 14mm was too narrow to capture the animal in the scene,” he adds.
Zafra organizes photo tours that include swimming with orcas as well as capturing the northern lights, details here.
Image credits: All photos by Dan Zafra.