A friend of mine suggested that I visited his seals, at Donna Nook. I thought he was joking last Spring when he told me the seals were at the end of his field and at peak season in November there would be a few thousand seals to visit. I visited in the Summer – and was surprised by how close the beach was and ended up coming home and researching about the seals and I had to go back…
What an amazing location and an awesome experience. When I got there, lunch time I wanted to head out straight away and capture the seals… wet weather was forecast the wind was bitterly cold and I did not know what opportunity I would have …. so I was desperate to create some memories.
I was working in Aperture priority mode with my 24-300 lens, I knew that I wanted to capture images that had some sort of action or interaction with the viewer – I had been looking at other images online, and I knew that I did not just want to record an image of a seal sleeping, but I was after something more…
I soon realised that the cloudy and over cast conditions meant that the ISO was high (I had to watch it did not go to high) and that when seals moved they moved quickly and to capture “the moment” you had to work fast.
What I had not realised was how many seals there would be … I had ran online that when we visited there would be over 1,500 seal pups on the beach, their mum’s and their dad’s … but I had not realised what that meant.
The pups are fed by the mum’s (sows) for 18 days, the mums then mate with the males (bulls) who are fighting for the right to mate. The sows then return to the sea…. the pups leave the shore over 4 weeks, and around 40% of them don’t make their first birthday!
I also did not realise how popular it was with other people. In the afternoon people pushed for a space and were in awe of the sight … the seals were amazingly close – to be honest I found it over whelming as I did not know what to photograph.
I had the idea I wanted to capture relationships and details… but once I was there I did not know if I was getting it right, which relationship should I capture… if I looked at x, I missed y …..
But it was the details like this one I wanted to remember – a young seal pup drinking milk from his mum … I had not even imagined I could create images like this one without being in an artificial environment – these we were wild seals… the only fence was the one we were behind… they had the freedom of the sea!
This one was just lying but a channel of water smiling… it was freezing cold, but somehow he looked warm, relaxed and happy. I was struggling to work out which were the younger pups and which were the older ones as they grow extremely quickly.
The seals were also very territorial, there were battles going on amongst bulls and sows as they protected their space, and over water they moved really quickly, for a short period of time, it was a challenge to capture the action.
I was also amazed by how different they all looked, and how the wardens there were able to recognise them, as they return to give birth in the same location each year… it was fascinating.
I soon worked out that Seals spent a lot of time sleeping, and I wanted to capture them with their eyes open, and if I was lucky with some movement, but this was a lot easier imagined.
But if you waited long enough and choose just one seal to focus on, then sometimes you were lucky and the photo was much more than just a seal!
By now I was cold, so I headed off for a cup of tea, a chat with my friend and as I had my lap top with me a look to see if any of the photos I had taken were what I wanted … to be honest – I was delighted!