Last summer, adventure videographer David Hartman traveled to British Columbia to produce what he thought would be a simple promotional video. Working with outfitter Spirit of the West in Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago, Hartman’s work resulted in a short video—and a lot more, including stunning aerial footage of a pair of orca (killer) whales.

“It was about so much more than just sea kayaking,” says the Toronto-based Hartman. “The landscape and wildlife in the area are nothing short of incredible so we spent a lot of time and effort capturing both of those.”

The Internet is rife with “whale crushes kayak” videos—some of which may even be real. The beauty of Hartman’s drone footage is that it captures a pair of resident orcas behaving naturally in their Inside Passage habitat. We caught up with him to learn more.

A paddler observing the killer whale and its surrounding landscape. Photo by David Hartman

A paddler observing the killer whale and its surrounding landscape. Photo by David Hartman

C&K: How did this shot come about?
David Hartman: We were flying [the drone] from a small boat outside of Telegraph Cove and heard about a pod of orcas in the area. It really isn’t cool to chase wildlife around so we turned off the engine, put the drone up, and hoped for the best. The drone was quite a distance away when I locked onto the two whales and then I just let them lead the way and made sure to not screw up the shot. Their movements are so fluid and slow that it’s incredible to watch from that perspective.

An orca making a splash near Vancouver Island. Photo by David Hartman

An Orca making a splash near Vancouver Island. Photo by David Hartman

Did you get a chance to paddle with orcas while you were out there?
I spent much of my time out there in a kayak and that really is the best way to experience this beautiful area. We encountered both orca and humpback whales along with a whole slew of other wildlife. There’s nothing like sitting at water level as a pod of dolphins swim by or humpback comes up for a breath.

What’s your impression of drones going mainstream?
Drones are incredible tools for an aerial perspective. But you have to be respectful of people and wildlife when you use them. Things can go wrong in a hurry.

Magnificent British Columbia. Photo by David Hartman

Magnificent British Columbia. Photo by David Hartman


View more adventure docs from David Hartman on C&K:
Canoe-tripping across Northern Ontario
Whitewater in Northern Quebec

More leviathan click-bait on C&K:
Kayakers ride whale
— A close call in Alaska
— SUPing with whales Down Under