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Sea Otter Savvy

Sea Otter Science And Community Outreach

Sea Otter Awareness Week Photography Workshop


joe grizzle face 350Date and time: Sunday, September 30, 2018, 7:45 AM to sundown
Location: Moss Landing Harbor, Elkhorn Slough
Price: $350 Deposit: $100
Maximum Number of Participants: 5

What better way to celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week than among the resident sea otters of Moss Landing and Elkhorn Slough accompanied by a husband and wife team of sea otter biologists?



Description: Sea otters are some of the most charismatic and photogenic residents of Moss Landing and Elkhorn Slough on Monterey Bay in California. In this unique photography workshop, you will be guided not only by a skilled wildlife photographer, but also by a sea otter biologist, all in one. Joe Tomoleoni (www.ecoexposurephotography.com; @ecoexposurephotography) has traveled the globe, exploring the reefs, kelp forests, mountains, and deserts to document not only the charismatic but also the often-overlooked denizens of nature. As a biologist, Joe has been studying sea otters since 2008. He is an expert in their behavior and natural history and is a well-rounded naturalist. Joe will provide leadership and instruction on how to capture the essential personalities of sea otters with your camera without disrupting their natural behaviors. Also joining the team will be marine mammal biologist and assistant professor at the University of San Francisco, Dr. Nicole Thometz-Tomoleoni, for a super sea otter savvy husband and wife team! joe nicole 350Dr. Thometz-Tomoleoni and Joe Tomoleoni Workshop participants will have opportunities to photograph sea otters and other wildlife in both on-the-water and land-based components of this full-day event. In the morning, glide silently on the waters of the harbor and slough on the Whisper Charters electric boat. The Selkie II provides 360° photography opportunities and has a canopy cover to protect against rain and direct sun.  After the cruise, explore the edges of the harbor and slough, where shore-based photography can be especially fruitful. See Moss Landing Harbor’s resident raft of bachelor male sea otters, foraging sea otter moms and pups, and abundant sea- and shorebirds, all easily photographed from shore. Lunch at one of the local restaurants will afford the opportunity to review photos from the morning and to talk photography and sea otters with Joe and Nicole. As a perfect finish to a perfect day, we will once again board the Selkie II and head up into Elkhorn Slough to catch the late afternoon and sunset light, while enjoying Hawaiian style pupus and cocktails.

One of the goals of this workshop is to promote and inspire a "leave no trace” ethic in aspiring wildlife photographers. All aspects of the workshop will be undertaken with the greatest care to avoid disruption of the natural behavior patterns of wildlife. Your registration fee will help cover costs of boat charter and professional instruction. All remaining proceeds from this educational workshop will support Sea Otter Savvy in our work to prevent human-caused disturbance to sea otters.

Click here to view the gallery from our Sea Otter Savvy Photography Workshop on February 17, 2018


SAVE THE DATE! On Wednesday, September 26 at 6:30PM at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Joe will be giving a talk about his experiences photographing and studying sea otters in California and Alaska as well as sharing tips for how to photograph these charismatic marine mammals.  Don’t miss this free public talk to get extra tips and pointers before the workshop!

Look for other Sea Otter Awareness Week events nationwide September 23-30!

Photographic Equipment: All required equipment is marked with an asterisk (*); the remaining gear is recommended and may be beneficial for getting unique images but is not required.
– Digital SLR Camera *
– Telephoto Lens (minimum 300mm, 400 through 800mm range is best) *
– Wide angle lens
– Tripod, monopod, or bean bag
– Teleconverters
– Extra memory cards and batteries
– Filters (if you intend to shoot landscapes)

– Binoculars (optional for spotting distant wildlife)

What to Bringgroup photo 350Sea Otter Savvy Workshop participants capture foraging behavior in Moss Landing Harbor
Clothing: Be prepared for temperatures ranging from 30-80° F. Bringing plenty of layers ensures you will be warm under the coolest conditions and can shed layers if it gets warmer. Rain and wind gear is always recommended; even without rain, dew and fog can be damp. We suggest headwear appropriate for cold, sun, and rain, as well as sunscreen and gloves. Hiking or athletic shoes will be most practical. The workshop will continue even under inclement weather—sometimes weather makes for some unique sea otter photos!

Camera Gear Protection:  A camera bag that protects your gear from light rain or splashes is a good idea.  You may want a towel or cloth for wiping down lenses and cameras after exposure to salt air and mist.  If you own a waterproof dry bag, even better, but it is definitely not required.

Transportation: Most locations are nearby and are relatively short walks or car rides. Participants will need to use their own vehicle (or carpool) for the short shuttle between sites.

Schedule: We will meet at Whisper Charters boat at 7:45 AM for a quiet cruise up the slough in the morning light and calm. We will return into the harbor at around 10:00 AM to begin exploration of nearby shore-based sites. The group will break for lunch at one of the local eateries where participants will be able to chat with Joe and Nicole about photography and sea otters.  After lunch, we will head out into the field once again, finishing up the day with a late afternoon/sunset cruise aboard the Selkie II beginning at 4:00 PM.

Physical Requirements: All of our shooting locations will be close to the car. The terrain is mostly flat but can be uneven. The boat charter will be in mostly calm and protected waters, so seasickness is unlikely. However, if you are prone to seasickness, please take whatever measures you need to ensure your personal comfort.

Other requirements: The instruction in this workshop will be catered to the level of the photographers with amateur and advanced photographers finding the workshop informative and productive.  Participants should be familiar with the basic operation of their camera equipment.  A basic knowledge of your camera will enhance your experience and allow for more advanced instruction.  You will get more out of this workshop if you take some time to get to know your camera and lenses by experimenting with settings and subjects in your backyard or local outdoor parks.  If you are already an experienced photographer, you will learn advanced techniques that are useful for sea otter photography, and our guides will put you in right position to capture great images.  You will also learn how an understanding of sea otter behavior and biology can help to capture the most unique and intimate sea otter images.   Minors must be accompanied by an adult.

joe so mussels 450Sea otter with clump of mussels in Moss LandingWhat’s included in the price: Whisper Charters charter (morning and afternoon trips) and expert guidance by wildlife photographer and sea otter biologist Joe Tomoleoni and marine mammal biologist, Dr. Nicole Thometz-Tomoleoni. The cost of lunch is not included in the fee.

Workshop Sponsors:

Sea Otter Savvy

Friends of the Sea Otter


Possible Species List (underlined species are the most commonly seen):


Southern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris nereis)

Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)

California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)


Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Brandt’s Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Common Loon (Gavia immer)

Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica)

Clark’s Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii)

Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)

Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Brandt's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Willet (Tringa semipalmata)

Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)

Common Murre (Uria aalge)

Heermann’s Gull (Larus heermanni)

California Gull (Larus californicus)

Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia)

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)

Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)

Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)

White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus)

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)

Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)

Sanderling (Calidris alba)

Other Marine Life

Leopard Sharks (Triakis semifasciata)

Bat Rays (Myliobatis californica)

Pacific Sea Nettles (Chrysaora fuscescens)

Lined Shore Crabs (Pachygrapsus crassipes)

Dock fauna (anemones, nudibranchs, crabs, bryozoans)