Elephant Seals

Eric, Rae, and I got up way early on Saturday morning (6:30 am) to photograph the mating and birth of elephant seals in San Simeon. The epicenter of the earthquake that hit California a week or so ago was not too far away from our location. Hearst Castle loomed in the background looking a bit like Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

We were joined with fellow nature photographers, Christine Humphreys, Bruce, John, and Paula. They were all using Canon cameras (save for Paula with a Nikon), from the EOS-1Ds to the EOS-10D, to EOS film bodies. They also came prepared to photograph wildlife, armed with a pair of 600mm lenses, a 300/2.8, and a 100-400mm. I felt quite inadequate with my 70-200 with a 1.4x tele-extender (thanks, Bruce)! They say wildlife photography begins at 400mm, and after seeing their photos, I agree!

Elephant seals look like giant blubbery slugs. They were all lounging around in the sun, occasionally humping around to assert their status. We missed photographing the exact moment of birth for 3 elephant seals. We knew that they were born when the seagulls swooped in to feast on the afterbirth. Some of the seals were really, really big. We learned that the largest elephant seals can grow up to 15 feet in length and weight over 2 tons! They could hump rather quickly on the sand, but in the water, they become sleek and fast torpedoes.

We got to the site around 10:00 am and stayed there until sunset. Eric was great driving both to and from. What a trooper he was! I offered to drive part of the way back, but my sub-standard stick shift driving skills quickly awakened Eric enough to finish the drive. Along with getting certified, I’m going to have to perfect my stick driving for Eric!

After we returned to the South Bay, we had dinner at Amber in Mountain View. Hot and spicy Indian food sure tasted good after a windy day on the coast!

Now for some photos. Check out Eric’s photos as well!

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