Wildlife photographer Enrique Aguirre makes a point of visiting Monterey Bay once a month to capture images of herons, seals and sea otters.
But on Feb. 3, the San Francisco-based freelancer found himself on the other end of the lens -— with an otter apparently looking at the photographers through a video camera viewfinder.
Aguirre was on Capt. Yohn Gideon's Elkhorn Slough Safari boat with several other professional photographers when the group spotted an otter in the distance. Gideon steered closer as Aguirre framed the shot. Then, Aguirre noticed something odd.
"I was like, did I actually see an otter with a video camera or was I hallucinating?" he said.
The screen on Aguirre's digital camera soon confirmed what he'd seen: an otter floating on its back, video camera grasped in its paws, lens aimed at the boat of excited photographers. The humans had a bad angle, but Aguirre managed to snap a single clear shot before the otter dived, video camera in tow.
"He's the only one who got the photo," Gideon said.
Judging by the rust and seaweed adorning the camera, the otter probably wasn't getting much good footage. But Aguirre, who has photographed animals all over the world for more than a decade, said the otter aiming a camcorder was the "craziest" thing he's seen an animal do in the wild.
The otter never resurfaced, leaving the photographers to speculate on the make and model of the animal's gear. Aguirre suspects that the camera was dropped by a kayaking tourist and then picked up by the curious creature.
"I know I can go down there another million times and I will never see another otter with a video camera," Aguirre said. "I think I have more chance of a penguin coming up to me and actually speaking English."