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On his way to go surfing in Morro Bay, this photographer captured a ‘melee’ of wildlife

A film photographer’s mantra says “F8 and be there,” which translates into a recipe for wildlife photographic success: Having the right equipment set right, enough experience to operate it properly and artistically and the great luck to be in the right place at the right time.

Former videographic professional Brian Caserio of Cambria understands all that very well, and it all came into focus for him again on Friday.

As he and wife Julie Yamato headed toward Morro Bay to surf, they saw humpback whales in the water about a half mile out, “just north of Black Rock” (the rock offshore just north of Cayucos along Estero Bluffs State Park).

To their trained eyes, it was obvious the whales weren’t just “lollygagging about, rather they were likely feeding or something, as it was pretty active,” he said. “I happened to have my drone in my car and the whales seemed to be not too far out.”

Caserio decided to send up the drone and its camera.

“The surprising thing,” he recalled, “and something that was not as obvious from the beach, was the sheer number of sea lions out there, and that they were actively chasing the whales around, waiting for them to drive up some anchovies” toward the sea’s surface.

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In his many years of videoing marine life, “I hadn’t seen that before, and it was especially interesting to watch it from high overhead.”

Operating a drone on such a vividly clear day had some complications, though, he said. It was “quite difficult because it was super bright and sunny, so I couldn’t see fine detail on my screen.” Also, “the water was so murky that the whales would disappear right away when they dove … Had I been able to see the color variations when the schools of anchovies were being driven upward I could have been in the right place a lot more often.”

After about 40 minutes of videoing the feeding frenzy — or what Caserio had dubbed the “humpback whale-sea lion-pelican-cormorant-sea gull melee” — the couple left. What to do then? Caserio said they headed for Atascadero Beach and “we went surfing.”

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