Whale mugs for photographer, but somebody else nabs the epic shot

·2 min read

A photographer in California’s Monterey Bay last Saturday encountered two humpback whales that circled and “danced” around his boat for 30 minutes.

“Definitely a day I will never forget!” Slater Moore Photography wrote on Instagram.

But the epic shot – showing Moore dwarfed by the towering fluke of one of the whales – was snapped by the captain of a nearby vessel.

Top two images courtesy of Tim Zoliniak

Capt. Tim Zoliniak of Sea Goddess Whale Watching captured the extraordinary image atop this post and another showing Moore and a partial fluke as the whale dipped beneath the surface.

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“We had about 100 people on board and they were pretty vocal and excited,” Zoliniak told FTW Outdoors. “After the whales were done with Slater they spent a few minutes with us.”

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Moore said his engine was not running throughout the encounter – in accordance with NOAA Fisheries guidelines – and Zoliniak said he tried to maintain a 100-yard distance (never easy with friendly whales).

Humpback whales are actively feeding on anchovies in Monterey Bay and their lunge-feeding behaviors can be spectacular.

Image courtesy of Slater Moore

But Moore told FTW Outdoors that the two whales that mugged for him were simply curious and playful. “They circled my boat for about a half-hour,” he said. “They kept going under my boat then to the back and front and just dancing around.”

He was shooting in video mode and shared his footage via Instagram (posted below).

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“I was on my way in from a ‘slower’ day of whale watching, lots of whales just not a lot of active behavior and then everything changed,” he wrote. “This whale’s fluke was towering over me!”

Moore said his wide-angle lens “did not do [the encounter] justice.” But he’s undoubtedly thankful that Zoliniak was positioned to help immortalize the moment.