Still photographs are often more compelling than video because they capture a single moment in time.
The stunning image atop this post, captured Sunday by Kate Cummings near Moss Landing in California's Monterey Bay, is a prime example:
The humpback whale has just lunged upward to capture a mouthful of anchovies and is about to sink back down. A woman on the beach takes a photo while her dog seems surprised by the sudden appearance of this gigantic creature.
It’s an outstanding image because it provides not only a detailed glimpse of a large whale in the act of surface lunge-feeding, but a sense of scale.
The images with this story also show the whales’ remarkable proximity to shore. This rare phenomenon began over the weekend, said Cummings, owner of Blue Ocean Whale Watch.
Before Sunday, the closest the humpbacks would come to shore was 100 yards. That’s more typical.
On Sunday, however, large schools of anchovies began to bunch up along the coast. The whales followed, coming as close as 50 yards, allowing people on the beach to attain up-close views previously attainable only by boaters.
“I think it has to do with the calmness of the ocean and the tides, plus the anchovies trying to seek refuge in shallow water—to no avail!” said Cummings, who provided the first three images with this story.
The whales are able to feed so close to shore because the water remains deep until it reaches a steep incline very close to the beach.
"We’ve been so spoiled lately," Cummings continued. "The last few days our routine has been to first check out the whales lunge-feeding on anchovies along the beach, then head out a mile-and-a-half to groups of 10 to 12 humpbacks feeding together with hundreds of sea lions.
"There’s so much food in the area the whales have no reason to leave, so we’re seeing the same individuals day after day.”
Of the whale pictured atop this post, Cummings said:
“This whale in particular is one of the best lungers we’ve seen. She circles away from the beach, then heads in close to shore, arches her back, and then comes up lunge-feeding shortly afterwards. The whales have drawn a crowd at the beach, and I was hoping she’d come up near a beachgoer for a sense of scale. The alert dog was a bonus."
The fourth image, showing two women pictured between the open jaws of a lunge-feeding humpback, was provided by Daniel Bianchetta of Monterey Bay Whale Watch.
Bianchetta posted the image to the company Facebook page Monday morning, beneath the caption:
"Anyone seen these women lately?"
Understandably, most images showing the coastal lunge-feeders are being widely shared and admired.
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