Golden beaches, purple sunsets and blue whales: Sean Keenan’s photos
Sean Keenan (@seansperception) is a Sydney-based photographer who gained international recognition when he filmed incredibly rare footage of blue whales offshore.
If you enjoy looking at photos of sunsets, beaches and sea life, then chances are you may have encountered the imagery of Sydney snapper Sean Keenan.
The Irish immigrant, who publishes on Instagram under the moniker SeansPerception, has a keen eye for capturing the extraordinary. His portfolio includes gold-and-purple sunsets over cultural landmarks, rugged waves broaching shorelines, spectacular aerial views of coastal scenes, and quirky cockatoos in flight. One of his recent images gaining a lot of exposure is an aerial view of rainbow-coloured steps on Coogee Beach.
In August 2020, Sean filmed two blue whales cruising past Maroubra Beach, which made international headlines. Whale experts from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) believe it was perhaps only the third sighting in a century of blue whales off the coast of Sydney.
NPWS' ranger Andrew Marshall said on 4 Sept, “The blue whale is the largest animal on the plant yet despite its size it could have easily slipped by Sydney's coast unnoticed.. They are not often seen because they tend to live very far out to sea, their populations are widely dispersed and we have very limited data on its migration and critical habitat… Opportunistic sightings like this one are so incredibly valuable. They improve our understanding of where these species live and suggest if there are measures we need to consider to try to protect them."
Neighbourhood Media caught up with Sean to discuss his eye for detail and what brought the young Irishman to Sydney. How did you land in the sea-side hamlet of Dee Why?
“I left my home country nearly 7 years ago, with my now-fiancé,” he revealed, “and although I love my home, I needed to try something new. With so many people leaving you always hear of the great stories and opportunities out here and I haven’t looked back since.”
What first attracted you to photography?
“I got my first DSLR camera when I moved to Sydney, as we were always going new places for the weekend and wanted to capture our travels,” he revealed. “I started taking it a bit more seriously around a year ago; I did a quick 4-hour photography course during Vivid Festival one night and was completely lost but amazed at the magic a cheap camera can produce.”
The majority of your images feature the Sydney coastline, many utilising a drone to get amazing aerial angles - do you prefer capturing sea-based images?
“I love shooting the coastline,” he confirmed. “The drone gives you a completely different perspective than being on the ground. I’ve spent a lot more hours in my photography journey in the sky with the drone, hence a lot of my photos being coastal.
“It’s only when the whale watching season finished last year that I started to take my handheld camera a bit more seriously and work on my ground landscape shots. I usually prefer stills, I think they look better on social media, except if I come across wildlife, because the unexpected can happen so it’s always good to [be able to] video.”
What's the secret to filming whales: do you receive tip-offs that pods are migrating along the coast, or simply find a headland with a good launching spot, send the drone out and hope for the best?
“For whale watching, it’s just a matter of spending a lot of time on the coast,” he revealed. “I was watching for a good seven months last year - I lost count of how many days I was out there! It’s just by being consistent you’ll (hopefully) get lucky.”
How did the incredible images + film footage of the blue whales come to fruition? Do you think this has been your favourite capture?
“Both blue whales I spotted, four weeks apart, had been seen just off the coast at Maroubra, less than 1km away, which was very surprising. The blue whale footage is probably my favourite,” he confirmed. “I’d be lying if I said otherwise, it was such a special and exciting capture for me.
“I still consider myself an amateur photographer who got lucky and was able to gain a bit of following. In the meantime I can’t wait for this whale season to begin as I never get sick of it! Let’s hope I’m able to spot a couple more species, preferably Orcas.”