After spending three years studying multimedia and graphic design, Australian Dylan Brayshaw and his best friend decided to travel through Indonesia and create a film based on their surfing adventures. Eventually they were able to sell the film, called “eat.sleep.surf.” to several broadcasters, making enough money to fund more trips. Since that first trip to Indonesia, Dylan has been traveling around the word taking film and photographs of the life of a surfer. In 2016, he saw how popular YouTube video blogs were becoming and was particularly inspired by Casey Neistat. But what Dylan noticed was that there was a lack of content focused on surf and ocean culture. By using a mix of hand held, mounted, and aerial cameras, Dylan positioned himself to capture some stunning images showing his deep appreciation for the ocean and the life it supports on his YouTube channel.
His YouTube channel has over 12K subscribers, and his videos have accumulated a little under 9 million views. His most popular video was posted over a year ago and has over 6.5 million views. Since first posting that video he has re-posted two edits of it that have received 683K and 414K views. This video is of a moment he was lucky enough to capture some orca whales swimming along with a woman, Judie Johnson, while he flew his drone over a New Zealand beach. It was not the first time Dylan had gotten footage of marine life with his drone. One of his favorite reasons for using a drone is that it allows him to really get a full picture of the splendor of the ocean. With a drone, once he has spotted marine animals he can track them over distances to see how they behave. He can also use the drone to give him directions to better position himself in the water, resulting in some incredible photos.
On the day Dylan’s drone captured the orcas swimming with Judie, it was a moment he was not expecting. It was a cold and cloudy day in December, the water was too cold for any swimmers. As he was rocking his son to sleep in the parking lot of Hahei Beach on the Coromandel peninsular, Dylan saw what at first he thought was a few seals or dolphins playing near the cove. He soon realized it was something larger. “I was watching a pod of orcas swimming up the beach,” Dylan wrote in the video description. “I saw a swimmer swimming along shore directly towards them, at this point I asked my partner to get my mobile phone as I wasn’t sure what would happen and I may have to call for help. The orcas circled her and she got quite the fright. She then got out the water as she was only 20 m from shore.” After Judie, a woman in her 60s who was doing some practice laps, spoke with some bystanders she turned around and went back into the water.
Dylan was shocked and concerned, but knew this was a moment he needed to capture. He strapped his son onto his chest with a baby sling and went down to the beach with his partner carrying the drone kit. While his partner launched the drone, he controlled it being sure fly it “a fair distance away making sure not to disturb the pod of orcas.” As Judie swam, the three orcas, a large adult, a smaller juvenile, and a calf, circle and crest around her. The orcas pass so close to her that in the unedited version of the video you can hear Dylan and his partner gasp in amazement. At one point you hear Dylan exclaim, “Wow! It’s amazing. It’s like they’re looking right at her.” He said this as the adult orca apparently came within feet of Judie, head to head. Judie later told news reporters that it was at that moment, when the orca was looking her directly in the eye, that all trepidation washed away. “It was so different to anything that’s happened to me before, and I thought, no, this is a life-changing experience,” Judie said. “They were as interested and curious about me as I was about them.”
The drone Dylan used was a DJI Mavic Pro 2, a drone he describes as, “Super versatile. Obviously it’s a fold-able drone, and you can fold it up and take it wherever you want.” The Mavic Pro has become one of the most reliable drones for aerial photography, and it did not disappoint on that December morning in New Zealand. To be able to film marine animals with a drone, an operator must maintain a distance of 150m (about 500ft). But, with the drone’s HD, stabilized camera, this distance can easily be overcome. Dylan has used his drone to capture some amazing surfers and other marine animals like leopard sharks, dolphins, and rays. But, of all the marine animals that Dylan has filmed with his drone, the orcas swimming with Judie were possibly the most mesmerizing. For both Dylan and Judie, to whom the ocean is a vital part of their lives, that day is one they will never forget. As Dylan said, “What I witnessed was truly amazing.”