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Sea Otter Savvy

Sea Otter Science And Community Outreach

Sea Otter Savvy Photography Workshop

Sea Otter Savvy Photography Workshop
  • Date and time: Saturday, February 17, 2018, 7:45 AM to sundown
  • Location: Moss Landing Harbor, Elkhorn Slough
  • Price: $350 Deposit: $100
  • Maximum Number of Participants: 5


Joe Tomoleoni's Moss Landing Sea Otter Gallery


Update: This workshop is now FULL!

Workshop 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) 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 sea otter 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 sea otter biologist and founder of Sea Otter Savvy, Gena Bentall, who has studied sea otters in the wild for 16 years. 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 Gena. 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.

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
  • Flash
  • Better Beamer
  • Extra memory cards
  • Graduated Neutral Density Filters (if you intend to shoot landscapes)
  • Binoculars (optional for spotting distant wildlife)

What to Bring
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.

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.

whisper charters 350View from aboard Whisper Charter's Selkie IISchedule: 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 Gena 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: Participants should be familiar with the basic operation of their camera equipment. Minors must be accompanied by an adult.

What’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 sea otter biologist Gena Bentall. The cost of lunch is not included in the fee.

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)

Workshop Sponsors