Photographer captures stunning encounter with killer whales off San Diego coast

SAN DIEGO – A local marine photographer recorded a close encounter with a pod of killer whales off the San Diego coast this weekend.

Dominic Biagini of La Jolla posted photos and videos of the orcas on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube on Saturday. He said that he came across six of the marine mammal about 20 miles southwest of San Diego.

"The conditions for a video like this may never come together this perfectly for me again," Biagnini wrote on his Instagram post. "Orcas are only seen off San Diego about once a year, so just finding them was a gigantic treat."

Biagini, who works as a photographer for Captain Dave's Dolphin Safaris, a whale-watching business out of Dana Point, told FOX 5 that he left Mission Bay in his private boat Saturday at about 9 a.m. He was hoping to show a friend visiting from Chicago some gray whales or a blue whale. He never expected to come across a pod of orcas, but about about an hour after they left port, he spotted a group of tall dorsal fins against the horizon. He immediately recognized them as a pod of killer whales.

"Spotting those dorsal fins was something pretty extraordinary for me,"Biagini said.

He used a drone to record video of the whales from above. He said the conditions were perfect and the water was clear and blue.

What made the experience unforgettable was  that there were no other boats around. For the next 90 minutes, Biagini and his friend had the orcas all to themselves. They would swim on the surface for about 10 minutes and then dive for four or five minute. Biagini motored along in the same direction at the speed as the pod, and they would surface  50 to 100 yards from his boat.

"They are curious animals," he said. "They are just as interested in us as we are in them."

Biagini also posted a gallery of still photographs on Facebook. "Just a positively magical experience being on the water with these beautiful animals," he wrote on his Facebook post. "This is the first time I've ever spotted Orca myself. We also saw them cross paths with a Blue Whale! However, no interactions took place. A day I'll never forget."