Tech note: Exposure Bias: +4/3 EV to bring out detail in dark skin.
I saved three images from 558 taken today. I paid the price for mediocre light at mid-day, but you get there when you can. Taken at Arroyo Laguna (click "map" to see where), just a foot off the ground from a 4 foot tall bluff, where the windsurfers gather, about 1000 meters south of Elephant Seal Viewing area #1 (bluff), and another 1000 meters south of the primary viewing area #2 (large parking area). Note that this area is closed after Dec. 15th of each year through March to photographers and all visitors except those engaging in water-related sports, and those users must not disturb the elephant seals in any way. If you want to photograph here you only have eight days from when I took this image 06 Dec 2009 to get your chance. Even thought there are no barriers, it is important to give these creatures a lot of distance. If they appear to be aware of you, you are too close. Do not leave the bluff to get on the sand, as that would be interpreted as a threat. This image was taken with a 600mm lens and a 1.3 factor camera so I was able to get this from some distance. 3 of 3 Male Northern Elephant Seal (M. angustirostris) at Piedras Blancas, San Simeon, CA 06 Dec 2009. At this point in time a number of Alpha males (illustrated in this photo) have establish territory on the beach, but no battling or contention of territory for females has begun. There is still plenty of space for each breeding male, but their space may yet be challenged by more mature Alpha males yet to arrive. Indeed, the monster illustrated in this photo, while massive, is not the biggest of the species that can be observed at Piedras Blancas in January. A few pregnant females are on the beach about ready to give birth. A fairly large number of juveniles are cached on the beach, many lumped into one big pile it seemed. Photo by Michael "Mike" L. Baird, mike [at} mikebaird d o t com, flickr.bairdphotos.com; Canon 1D Mark III, Canon 600mm f/4.0 Lens with Circular Polarizer (it had a significant effect on reducing skin glare in the overcast mid-day light) on heavy Gitzo GZGT5540LS tripod with Wimberley Gimbal Head II on leveling base. See tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/photomorrobay/cal///group/pho...
for an opportunity to photograph these amazing creatures with a group of photographers on Jan 9 2010. See Friends of the Elephant Seal at www.elephantseal.org/
for all you'll need to know about this setting. www.elephantseal.org/
says in part "The adult animals come on to the beach in the winter for the birthing and breeding season, with adult males arriving in late November or early December when they contest for a dominant position on the beach. The males are followed by the adult females in mid-December to late January. As the females come on the beach they become, in effect, part of a "harem" controlled by one of the alpha males. They give birth to their pup within a few days of their arrival on the beach and nurse them for approximately four weeks. Toward the end of the nursing period the females go into estrous and are bred, usually with the alpha bull although other males will attempt to mate as the opportunity arises. Shortly after the mating and at the end of the nursing period, the female will go back to sea."