Filming Dangerously Close to Steller Sea Lions

In partnership with National Parks, National Geographic Channel unleashes the hidden beauty and brutality of America’s national parks—100 years in the making. In conjunction with the centennial of the National Park Service, the spectacular year-long television event, America’s National Parks, will kick off with one of America’s most enchanting parks—Olympic National Park—highlighting natural wonders both big and small as you have never experienced them before.

Wildlife cinematographer for the series, Florian Graner, is often asked whether or not his job is dangerous. “Sure, there are some risks, but I feel much more vulnerable driving on Interstate 5 than say diving with Steller Sea Lions,” Graner says. Male sea lions can weigh up to a ton and are extremely agile underwater. Operating together in groups, these sea lions can easily overpower and often harass divers. When asked about interfacing with these creatures, Graner remarks, “Most divers I know are afraid of them and stay away,” but not Florian himself. Florian understands that there is a balance when working with these large animals, “Yes, they do come to you, yank on body parts, fins and hoses but they have a very clear body language and they understand mine too.” You can see in this behind the scenes video below that he’s extremely comfortable and manages their ceaseless prodding with an ease that other less experienced divers may not understand.

Florian Graner reflects on his dive history and courtship with the curious Stellar sea lion throughout this project:

“Diving with them feels like companionship, friendship, a cup of tea. I never need to bother them, I just dive in the reef some hundreds of yards away and they will come, guaranteed. We kind of have these meetings underwater and you are sometimes surrounded by a thick mass of sea lions, barking, swirling around, pushing and joggling for positions right around you. Sometimes they will follow you everywhere and you have to stop filming because they prevent you from holding the camera steady, sometimes they just disappear again. One thing is certain – it is never boring around these guys! I love film making like this… Once you have their trust they accept you as being part of the gang.”

For Graner, being one-on-one with animals like these is an experience he treasures. Don’t miss America’s National Parks: Olympic this Sunday, December 6th at 7/6c on National Geographic Channel.