Northern Elephant Seals at San Simeon

This past weekend I rented the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 lens and drove a couple hours up the coast to the San Simeon area along highway 1 to photograph the Northern Elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), which are now on the beaches in good numbers while moulting.  The weather was quite dissapointing with rain on Friday and thick fog (typical for the area, but I’m often lucky and have clear skies) on Saturday and Sunday.  The fog lifted from time to time, but for the most part, it was so thick that even being no more than 5-10 meters from the seals a visible haze would be present between the animals and myself.  And not much chance of any landscape type shots of the seal covered beaches.  Though as long as I was pretty close, the fog provided a nice soft light, like a giant soft box in the sky (and I got pretty sunburnt as well).   I’ll also say that I’m glad that wildlife photography doesn’t interest me all that much, as I would hate to have to carry a lens like that on a regular basis.  Totally defeats my ideas of traveling “fast and light.”  Though the lens is beautifully sharp and a pleasure to work with, just not carry.

Northern elephant seals - Mirounga angustirostris - on beach at Piedras Blancas north of San Simeon, California. Cody Duncan photography

Northern elephant seals - Mirounga angustirostris - on beach at Piedras Blancas north of San Simeon, California. Cody Duncan photography

Northern elephant seals - Mirounga angustirostris - on beach at Piedras Blancas north of San Simeon, California. Cody Duncan photography

Northern elephant seals - Mirounga angustirostris - on beach at Piedras Blancas north of San Simeon, California. Cody Duncan photography

Northern elephant seals - Mirounga angustirostris - on beach at Piedras Blancas north of San Simeon, California. Cody Duncan photography

Northern elephant seals - Mirounga angustirostris - on beach at Piedras Blancas north of San Simeon, California. Cody Duncan photography

Northern elephant seals - Mirounga angustirostris - on beach at Piedras Blancas north of San Simeon, California. Cody Duncan photography

As the seals are mostly quite still while sleeping I tried throwing on a 6 stop neutral density filter to get some blur in the water and see how things looked.  A few of the seals moved a bit, but for the most part they remained still for the 8 second exposure.  Just wish it hadn’t been so foggy.  The seals will be around for another month of so, so maybe I’ll go back again, with a better weather forecast.

Northern elephant seals - Mirounga angustirostris - on beach at Piedras Blancas north of San Simeon, California. Cody Duncan photography

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