The sea otters of Moss Landing are marvelous creatures. Seemingly posing all day for photographers in a little bay, I even had one of them coming to shore for me. In the light of the setting sun, he seemingly wanted to afford me a unique photograph. Maybe he was curious at this strange creature with this clicking device observing him.
Once hunted close to extinction, California’s population of well over 2000 otters all stem from a single colony that survived the hunt for their fur. Most otters populate the Central California Coast between San Francisco and Santa Barbara.
I have seen otters in Monterey and Pacific Grove, but never as close as I have at Moss Landing, making Moss Landing one of the best places for otter photography.
How to get there
Driving Highway 1 from north to south, take the Moss Landing Road exit to your right and stop at the small bay full of boats. Walk around and look for the otters between the boats. The GPS location below is the exact spot where the otters often hang out and sleep on their back most of the day.
The Otters were exactly at this spot:
How to photograph the Otters of Moss Landing
You need a long telephoto lens to shoot the otters up close. Since I did not have such a lens, I tried to stay with the otters that were moving and I got lucky twice in a row. I followed them on foot around the little peninsula. Meanwhile the sea otters were swimming on their back and cleaning themselves or eating crab like this little one here.
I had the advantage of having the otters for myself while they were backstroking along the shore. I kept my focus on them and took a nice series of photographs, discovering much about the personality of these remarkable creatures.
If you have a lot of equipment, a long lens (400mm or more) and a tripod, stay near the spot I marked on the GPS. With a smaller setup, you can walk around the boats and discover some of the more active otters there.
The peaceful harbor offers enough photographic excitement until the sea otters show up. The nearby state beaches and Elkhorn slough are worth the trip.
Best Time of the Day and Best Season
During the afternoon, the otters are most active, foraging for food, and cleaning. This is the best time of the day to photograph them. I took the picture at the top of this posting near the end of the day, where I had to boost ISO levels. This is not a sunset location.
It is hard to predict how long you will need. Just stop when you pass on Highway 1 and take some time to look around. When the otters are out, you will most likely lose track of time anyways.
- Telephoto Lens
- Lens Extender
- High ISO camera
The otters keep their distance, which makes it hard to follow them once they get moving. Even if your lens has image stabilization, you need to keep the exposure time below 1/125s once the otters move.
Sea Otters are endangered species. No matter how excited you may get, please keep your distance and do not disturb them!
- Monterey Wharf
- Monterey Cannery Row
- Pacific Grove
- 17 mile drive
- Butterflies of Monarch Grove Sanctuary
- Santa Cruz Harbor and Walton Lighthouse
- Santa Cruz Wharf and Boardwalk
- Santa Cruz Cliff Drive and Lighthouse Point
- Santa Cruz Natural Bridges State Park
- US-35 Skyline Boulevard
- Carmel by the Sea
- San Juan Bautista
Subscribe to my feed and be the first to learn about the secret places to photograph.
If you like this post, use the buttons below to bookmark it or vote for it.