Kayaker / Whale Image – The Real Story

Kayaker in the mouth of a Whale

This is a post about my composite image of a kayaker in the mouth of a whale and how it has gone viral on the internet all over the world. I have been hesitant to post this blog, but since I see so many others using my image for their own purposes I now feel compelled to tell my true version of the story. Hopefully, this will set things straight.

Search Google sometime for ‘kayaker whale’ and see the results. All over the internet there are websites posting my composite image for a variety of reasons. Only a small handful of the postings have been used with my permission and previous knowledge. This has prompted me to post my own blog about my image. And not only is this article about the image belonging to me, Tim Shobe, this posting is also about the power of social networking and the usage of a copyrighted image through-out the internet.

My ‘kayaker in the mouth of a whale’ image was originally created on March 6th, 2010. While living alone on an island at the time and feeling the need to be creative, I decided to produce a composite image as ‘mild entertainment’ to be used in an email intended to be seen by a few of my close friends. Since then, it has taken on a life of its own – being passed all over the internet and the world. Here are a few of the situations, to my knowledge, that this simple composite image has developed:

    • The ‘original’ whale image on my website has been searched and found through the metadata and has produce well over 50,000 visitors to that one image.
    • I have been investigated by NOAA as they believed that the image was real and they wanted to know the facts about it.
    • The image has been used on television broadcasts and radio station websites and more (all without my permission or knowledge).
    • A story on it was published in the local Sitka newspaper.
    • The snopes.com editor estimated to me that the image had been passed around to over 2 million people via email.
    • I have received messages from all over the world. Some very good… some almost ‘hateful’ sent to me by those that don’t know any better. I prefer to remember the positive comments and the people I have met along the way (I now have a friend from the UK that had a career working for the Queen of England and informed me that this image is all over his area in London). Many times, this image comes back to me from people I know that have received it themselves from someone else.
    • Magazines have used it (without my permission or knowledge).
    • An artist from Paris, France sent me his version of the image with a ‘reflection’ of the kayaker in the water.
    • Snopes.com and Hoaxslayer.com did reports about. I gave them permission to publish the image and my story.

Below are my original images that I used for the composite. The first image (cropped in the final version) was captured during a spectacular afternoon of watching humpback whales bubblenetting near Sitka, Alaska.

Whale1 images for blogWhale2 image for blogKayaker original

The kayaker image I used for the composite is one of my friend, Richard Kraft, while he was paddling his kayak on February 1st, 2010.

It wasn’t long after I created and emailed the image to my friends that things got crazy and the image gained attention that I could never imagine nor did I ever intend. NEVER did I claim that this composite image was from an actual event. Since my original email was written, many others have put their own ’spin’ on the story. Mr. Kraft is NOT a ‘dentist’ as is now the claim in recent versions of the viral email.

Below are a couple of examples of the many ways that my image has been used. I have only given permission to the few that have requested it to use for their purposes. Please understand that this is a ‘copyrighted’ image and is fully protected under U.S. Copyright laws. Websites, newspapers, magazines and others should hopefully respect these laws, but as anyone can see after doing a search on the internet about my image, not too many people respect these laws.

Kayaker Whale Newspaper ArticleThe Sitka Sentinel, a local newspaper, printed a story about my image on the front page in March 2010. I was happy to give them the story when they asked for it.

A news station in another State displayed my image and reported it as being a real incident! They have since corrected themselves.

Blog image of TV screen news

There are many more cases out there about the use of my copyrighted ‘kayaker/whale’ image and I will be glad to hear about them if anyone cares to share the stories with me.

The lesson learned here is that many people don’t understand the uses of photo-editing software. I have also been reminded that there are many people out there that are very judgmental towards others under circumstances that they know absolutely nothing about.

The biggest reality about my experience is that there are also many good people around the world that have contacted me to express their appreciation for my image.

Please feel free to leave any welcomed comments of your own.

Tim Shobe

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2 Responses to Kayaker / Whale Image – The Real Story

  1. Tim Vechik says:

    First of all, I must say I love the composite; it’s a lot of fun, and makes you stand back and go “whoah.” I would also definitely be interested to see, instead of the French artist’s, your version of the photo with a reflection of your friend in the water as well. I Wholeheartedly sympathise with your predicament, and hope that you can find, at the very least, some compositing work in the future from all of this :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Your image appeared in a friends Facebook post which led me to search online and I found your gallery of photos. You photos are magnificant. On the bright side I am glad to have seen the image as it brought me to your site which otherwise I may have never seen nor even looked for it.

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