Photographer catches humpback whale at play in San Luis Obispo
Whales have been searching for food in shallow waters as of late
Retiree and amateur photographer, 69-year-old Bill Bouton was enjoying a sleepy day at San Luis Obispo, a small coastal town in California when he lucked into an extraordinary sight. A pod of humpback whales emerged from the water.
'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,' the photographer told reporters. 'It was priceless.'
Pulling his car over, Bouton set up his camera tripod near the water's edge to capture the event.
Both nearby boaters and kayakers in the waters had cameras of their own poised to take pictures, fearlessly advancing toward the hungry beasts, which typically are 39 to 52 feet in length with an average weight of around 79,000 pounds.
Bouton explained on NBC's Today Show how he had spent most of the morning trying to photograph birds nearby but had been unsuccessful in finding any compelling subjects.
The slow afternoon ended in triumph as he was able to put his camera to good use for an hour as he snapped the aquatic spectacle.
"I was really lucky," he said about the welcome turn-of-events.
One whale fed on a 'bait ball,' a dense mass of sardines that forms to ward off predators.
Humpback Whales only feed in the summer and live off the reserves stored in their bodies during the winter months.
Bouton said that U.S. federal guidelines warn observers to stay at least 100 yards away from whales or risk being fined $50,000. Onlookers hovered around the feeding site with some coming just a few 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 reporters. "It was priceless."
A comment left Bouton's Internet Flickr page and also commented on the brazen beach babe, "Yikes!!!! That lady on the paddle board....is she NUTS?"
The retired high school teacher has been photographing birds for 35 years but has never enjoyed the kind of attention the whale photos have brought.
Just 16 hours after he posted the humpback shots on Flickr, they had amassed 200,000 views. Scores of fans heaped praise on the amateur photographer with comments like "I think you have redefined 'Surreal,'" "Off the scales incredible!" and "This is a photographic treasure."
"It's been absolutely crazy," Bouton says.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Keywords: Humpback whales, photographer, San Luis Obispo, California
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