Life Changing: Todd Thimios’ stunning Norway orca photography
Expedition tutorial and underwater photographer, Todd Thimios, fulfils his childhood desire of swimming with orcas, capturing his experience with breathtaking illustrations or photos
Words and phrases and shots By Todd Thimios
When I was a teenager, I viewed a documentary called Killer Whales: Wolves of the Sea, which portrayed the extraordinary sight of orcas deliberately beaching themselves superior on the sand to hunt younger seals.
My head was blown at the conduct, which struck me as becoming carried out in the name of exciting, alternatively than the requirement of predation. That documentary was the beginning of an appreciation of these apex ocean predators that would increase into an too much to handle desire to join with them underwater, and which would finally fuel my adventures and vocation for many a long time to come.
Rapid-ahead 15 a long time and I identified myself filming this unbelievable and special searching approach on the really very same beach in Patagonia, Argentina, exactly where the first documentary experienced been filmed. I had been flown there by a rich, superyacht-possessing businessman who preferred me to report from the place in advance of deciding no matter whether to visit himself. I could not feel what I was looking at.
The orcas’ assaults had been clearly premeditated a calculated evaluation in between hazard and reward as they beached. When I showed my employer the online video and excitedly regaled him with my account of the practical experience, he was uninterested, but my hunger for future expeditions in search of shut encounters with orcas experienced grown.
By the time I was 30, I had proven a livelihood from undertaking something I really beloved. Underwater pictures has been not only my best passion, but it also offered a feasible way to travel the globe.
As an expedition guidebook for superyacht homeowners, I skilled lots of unbelievable underwater adventures, from piloting a submersible to the 1,000-metre deep ocean flooring, to a vast array of encounters whilst filming and major dives. If there was one particular practical experience that was to top rated my bucket record of encounters, having said that, it was to go diving with orcas.
In 2015 I used every cent I had on a mission to dive with orcas in the Arctic – and I didn’t see a single fin. Even nevertheless the timing of my check out was right, I quickly learned that there are several components which will need to align in advance of the orcas seem. I would go on to return to the north of Norway for five consecutive seasons right before all the things commenced to click on.
The most important supply of foods for the resident population of orcas in Norway’s Arctic north is Norwegian spring-spawning herring, which assemble in large figures every year off the coast of Norway in the course of February and March. At 1 time seriously depleted by industrial fishing, the herring stock has returned to sustainable stages, thanks to tightly-managed fisheries, and stands as a important component within the Arctic ecosystem.
Later on in the yr, orcas abide by the experienced herring as they migrate by means of Norway’s fjords, separating scaled-down groups of herring from the bigger shoals and forcing them to the surface area where by, trapped in between the surface and a curtain of bubbles exhaled by the orcas, they come to be effortless prey.
Whilst the encompassing landscape is of a gorgeous and nearly fairytale-like magnificence, diving in northern Norway is severe and demanding. Because of to the sporadic and quick-paced mother nature of herring and orca encounters, freediving has generally furnished a much more agile and thriving solution than scuba diving for filming, so more-thick wetsuits and an sufficient provide of weights are the purchase of the working day.
H2o temperature averages all over 5 degrees Celsius, but it’s the wind-chill that actually stings, driving the temperatures well below zero. Right away snowfalls ended up at times so hefty that it would take hrs to shovel the snow from our dive boat right before we would be in a position to depart port, not forgetting that a lot of this transpires in darkness, as northern Norway’s Arctic sunshine rises late in November. ‘Freezing’ and ‘dark’ are not the most great circumstances for an underwater photographer.
It was on the previous working day of my fifth check out to Norway when the orca face I’d often dreamed of eventually happened. Freezing, gale-drive Arctic winds drove rolling, breaking swells across the open up ocean the temperature plummeted to minus-15 levels, cutting by way of my 9mm hooded wetsuit and into my physique. This was the last day ahead of the solar would established, not to increase again until finally February, much more than two months away.
In the last times of that past day, we spotted a pod of orcas – but they had been not where we experienced predicted them to be. They ended up travelling collectively in rough, open up ocean, relatively than looking along the sheltered coastline for migrating herring. They appeared to be playfully riding the ocean swells, their big dorsal fins towering much more than a metre above the surface.
The moment I was certain that the pod was comfy with our existence, I dropped about 200 metres in front of the travelling orcas. Ought to they decide on to investigate, I would have only seconds to body the shot as they handed. There was no place for mistake.
As luck would have it, they arrived incredibly close, easily riding the swell to pass inside metres of me. I was struck by the development, and part of just about every member of the pod. The large, male bulls worked the perimeter of the pod, investigating their environment and defending the matriarchal females sheltering the youthful.
Their curiosity, intelligence and ability, merged with the past rays of Arctic light-weight filtering as a result of the rough ocean floor, developed one of the most unforgettable moments of my lifetime. When, fatigued, I climbed back onto the boat, I collapsed on the deck in disbelief at what I had just witnessed.
It was a quick face, but as I edited my pictures, back at property – and a planet away – in the tropics of northern Queensland, Australia, I observed that I experienced captured it magnificently, with unbelievable Arctic lighting and the pod in excellent development.
1 afternoon, I uploaded a few photos to my Instagram account and they had been immediately picked up and reposted by hundreds of other folks. Just one girl, a complete stranger to me, noticed a single of my photographs and liked it so a lot she wrote to me – and the rest became background. We are now married and the same photograph hangs previously mentioned the cot of our daughter, Piper Pearl.
The teenage me seeing that orca documentary hardly ever could have imagined the events it would put in motion, nor that it would finally guide to the pinnacle of my job – and the pinnacle of my private lifetime, my spouse and daughter.
I hope my daughter joins me in the water, 1 working day.
You can locate far more from Todd Thimios and his specialist photography on his web page at www.thimios.com, and on Instagram @toddthimios