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Photographer searching for strangers in spectacular orca photo

Two people from the photograph have come forward. But he's still searching for the other three.

A photographer is searching for three strangers after he captured a picture-perfect image of an orca right in front of them on Vancouver Island. 

Iwan Lewylle spent Tuesday afternoon guiding an eco-tour with Nature Trek and was on a boat at about 4 p.m. near Oak Bay Marina when the action started. 

“I was guiding a couple of Belgians and we were looking for whales,” he says. “That was the task of the day.” 

Lewylle moved to Vancouver Island five years ago after working as a biologist in Belgium for 12 years. 

"I moved... to the West Coast of Canada to live in a green environment,” he says. “There's a lot of wildlife and I hope it stays that way."

While on the boat, a family of Bigg’s killer whales swam between the shore and the boats. Lewylle took out his telephoto lens and began snapping photographs of the surfacing whale. 

"This one was pretty good and really unexpected. That was the first time ever I was able to take a shot like that,” he says. 

The photograph captured the very moment a large killer whale named Kye was spy-hopping and the reaction of five surprised people on shore.

“The combination of those people watching and then the interaction you could see, like people being amazed or pointing, it was fun,” says Lewylle, adding there's also a Canadian geese cameo in the frame.

It took him a couple of seconds to line up the right shot and he didn’t know if it was in focus until he got home. 

"I thought, 'Yeah, this is a reasonably good picture,’” he says. 

He tells Glacier Media he wants to find the people in the photograph so he can give them a print. 

“If I were one of those people, I would think it would be very pleasant to get an email from a photographer asking, ‘Hey, this is you?’” he says. “And I'm thinking of printing it out and framing it and giving it to them if they liked that idea."

Lewylle shared the image on Facebook the day after the encounter in hopes of finding the strangers. The photograph has now been viewed by more than 10,000 people and has nearly 600 comments. 

“I was not expecting the enthusiasm or the amount of likes, but it is what it is,” he says.

Joe Nelson saw the Facebook post and quickly realized it was him and his son in the photo. 

“It's an awesome photo. I immediately contacted the photographer, and he's gonna send it over so that we can put it on the wall,” says Nelson. “That was such a cool surprise.”

He’s lived in Victoria for 10 years and has been waiting for the day he would see orcas in person. 

“It's just something I'm never gonna forget,” he says. 

Not only was it a first for him, but also his son. 

"I was actually more... excited for my kid because we were experiencing it together for our first time,” Nelson adds.

The pair raced over to Ten Mile Point after hearing there was a pod of whales nearby. 

“We went and we sat there and then all of a sudden they were directly in front of us,” he says. “Maybe 15 feet away.”

Since seeing the photograph, Nelson and Lewylle have connected and are in the process of getting a print of the photo. 

“It was nice that the photographer got that photo of us because it's something that I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life,” Nelson says.

The family has picked out the perfect spot on their living room wall. 

“It's right front and centre so when you're sitting on the couches, you can actually see it.”

Lewylle is searching for the three other people in the photograph and is asking them to reach out on Facebook or Instagram.

“It just would be pleasant if those people reached out to me so I can hand over that picture to them,” he says.