Japanese Photographer is Living Her Dream Capturing Orcas All Over the World

Split image with a close-up of a killer whale underwater on the left and a smiling woman with a camera on a boat on the right, with a coastal background.

When Machi Yoshida visited an aquarium and saw orcas when she was a five-year-old child, the Japanese photographer instantly knew what she wanted to do with her life.

“I fell in love with these beautiful animals,” Yoshida tells PetaPixel. “Since then, I always wanted to work with orcas.”

A killer whale breaching the surface of a deep blue ocean, creating a splash of water around it, under a clear sky.
A Bremer Bay orca called Nibbles which is Yoshida’s favorite individual.

An underwater photo of a manta ray seen from the front, mouth open, against a clear blue ocean background.

an orca spy hopping
An orca spy hopping.

But after realizing the aquarium was the wrong place for these ocean-faring creatures to exist, she got a job on an orca whale-watching boat in Japan and began traveling to Western Australia to see the Bremer Bay orcas.

That was in 2018 and she has since spent seven seasons with the Bremer Bay orcas working on an identity catalog where she takes a staggering 8,000 photos per day some 30 miles (50 kilometers) off the coast where there is an annual congregation of marine life which draws tourists and scientists.

“I can recognize over 150 individuals by looking at them,” adds Yoshida who can tell them apart by distinctive white patches on their faces.

An orca whale breaches the water's surface, its mouth partially open displaying red gums and sharp teeth, with dynamic splashes of ocean water around it.

An orca swims gracefully underwater, its distinctive black and white body contrasting vividly with the deep blue surroundings. sunlight penetrates the water, creating a shimmering effect.

A smiling woman wearing a bucket hat holds a camera with a large lens on a boat, with a coastline and calm sea in the background.

Yoshida lives her dream by working on whale watching baots in both Australia and Japan selling some of her photos and also working as a barista when she has spare time in Bremer Bay.

Sightseers who board Yoshida’s boat can browse the photos in her identity catalog and recognize individual orcas themselves.

She tells ABC News Australia that her favorite orca in Bremer Bay is one called Nibbles who regularly jumps in front of the boat.

“I found that impressive and instantly fell in love and since then he has been my favorite,” she adds.

An orca and her calf swimming in the ocean, with the calf close to the adult. the adult orca's dorsal fin is prominently visible against the wavy blue water.
Orca and calf.

An orca swimming directly towards the camera in clear blue water, viewed from below, showcasing its distinct black and white coloration.

An orca and a humpback whale swimming in deep blue ocean waters, with splashes created by their movements visible above the surface.

An orca whale swimming near the surface of the ocean, cutting through blue waters, captured in a high resolution photo showcasing detailed black and white markings.

Yoshida is currently in South Africa where she was invited on a whale-watching tour and recently photographed a pod of nine orcas.

“I want to travel the world to see orcas in other countries in between the Japanese and Australian orca seasons,” Yoshida says of her future plans.

“Following these amazing animals has allowed me to connect with people all over the world. This year, I got an invitation on a whale-watching tour in South Africa where I am currently photographing these wild animals.”

Image credits: Photographs by Machi Yoshida.