Stunning moment a humpback whale breached the water as he fed in the middle of a sleepy Californian fishing harbour
An amateur shutterbug happened upon a stunning scene as a pod of humpback whales emerged from the water as a curious crowd of watchers gathered around.
Retiree Bill Bouton was driving in San Luis Obispo, California on Saturday when he glanced over at the coast to see a group of the massive mammals feeding in the shallow waters, which has been occurring occasionally in the area over the past few days.
The 69-year-old managed to pull his car over and set up his camera tripod near the water’s edge to capture snapshots of the event.
Meal time: Fearless onlookers try and get close to capture pictures of a feeding humpback whale in the waters of San Luis Obispo, California on Saturday
Boaters and kayakers in the waters hadcameras of their own poised to take pictures, fearlessly advancing toward the hungry animals, typically from 39–52 ft (12–16 metres) in length with an average weight of around 79,000 lb (36,000 kilograms).
Bouton explained on NBC’s Today Show on Monday how he had spent most of the morning that day trying to photograph birds nearby but had been unsuccessful finding any compellingsubjects.
But what started off as a disappointment, ended in triumph as he was able to put his camera gear to good use for an hour as he snapped the aquatic spectacle.
‘I was really lucky,’ he said about the turn-of-events on Saturday.
The massive mammals were attracted to the waters in San Luis Obispo, near Los Angeles, as one whale fed on a ‘bait ball,’ a dense mass of sardines that forms to ward off predators.
Nice view: A kayaker enjoys watching the hungry animal – which typically measures from 39 to 52 ft (12 to 16 metres) in length – look for food
They only feed in the summer and leave off the reserves stored in their bodies during the winter months.
The photographer said that U.S. federal guidelines warn observers to stay at least 100 yards away from whales or risk being fined $50,000. Despite the massive size of the marine mammals and the possibility of being fined, onlookers hovered around the feeding site with some coming just feet away from a whale.
‘There’s a woman in what looked like a black party dress standing calmly on her paddle board and taking a photo with the whale,’ Bouton told the NBC morning show. ‘It was priceless.’
Perfect timing: Retiree Bill Bouton captured these images after driving past at just the right moment
One person took to Bouton’s Flickr page and also commented on the brazen beach babe, ‘Yikes!!!! That lady on the paddle board….is she NUTS’
Bouton, a retired high school biologyteacher, has been photographing birds for 35 years but has never enjoyed the kind of attention the whale pics have brought.
Just 16 hours after he posted the humpback shots on Flickr, they had amassed 200,000 views. Scores of fansheaped praise on the amateur photographer with comments like ‘I think you have redefined “Surreal,’ ‘Off the scales incredible!’ and ‘This is aphotographic treasure.’
‘It’s been absolutely crazy,’ Bouton said about the publicity over his prized pictures.
Keep your distance: U.S. federal guidelines warn observers to stay at least 100 yards away from whales or risk being fined $50,000. Despite the massive size of the marine mammals and the risk of being fined, onlookers hovered around the feeding site with some coming just feet away from a whale