The elephant seal colony at Pietras Blancas beach is a very busy place during December and January as the mothers are giving birth at the beginning of that time period and mating near the end. The males arrive in late October and the sub-adult males arrive late November/early December.
These two males have just reached the start of puberty, indicated by the slight growth at the end of their noses. When they finally reach adulthood, their noses can be as long as two feet.
The adolescent males practice fighting in order to prepare themselves for the day when they will have to battle for their harem of females on the beach. Very rarely are these mock battles or even the real ones fatal. Although once in a while a male may break a jaw or lose and eye which can hinder their chances for survival.
During their active months on the beach, you can see this behavior all of the time. I had to wait until the rest of the frame was clear of distractions and the water wasn’t covering them. Again, patients pays off in nature photography.
If you want more information on elephant seals, visit the Friends of Elephant Seals website.
In my last post, I had a picture of a female elephant seal and described how being patient was rewarded by the seal finally looking up into the camera for the decisive moment. I thought I’d share what I saw for most of the rest of the time I spent focused on her.
Yes, she is cute when she sleeps, but this is type of picture that most people get at Pietras Blancas while watching elephant seals. They lay, they sleep, and they mostly don’t do anything exciting. In reality, that is what most of nature does.
But once in a while, if you wait and are patient, they will do something worth photographing; like lifting their head and looking into the camera. The secret is to be ready when it happens.
That is the key to getting a good or great shot, not just the same shot everyone else took.
You can read more about elephant seals by visiting the Friends of Elephant Seals website.
Just north of the town of San Simeon is Piedras Blancas beach where in the last 25 years, a colony of elephant seals have made it their beach and rookery. As a result, the state or county has put up a board walk so visitors can view the elephant seals without disturbing them.
If you have a good lens and a clear day, you can get some great shots of the seals in their natural habitat. Depending on the time of year you go, you can see elephant seal behavior ranging from the usual sleeping, rolling over, and being lazy to mating and the birthing of pups.
There are times that you will have to fight with other tourists for prime locations on the boardwalk, but if you are patient, polite, and a little assertive, you can get a good spot to get some great images. The secret it to plan to stay in one place for a while before you move on.
While the seals are used to humans and I don’t think they alter their behavior, they don’t go through all of their behaviors all of the time. As with any nature photography, you sometimes have to wait for the decisive moment.
That is what I did here. I focused on the female sleeping in between her two friends and I knew she was going to eventually raise her head in order to get more comfortable. (Apparently, seals are like humans. They don’t stay in one position forever.)
I got lucky that she not only raised her head, but also seemed to look directly into my lens.
You can learn more about elephant seals by visiting the Friends of Elephant Seals website.