“And if you can’t be with the one you love
Honey love the one you’re with
Love the one you’re with”
November through March the elephant seals return to several locations on the California coast; Ano Nuevo, Piedras Blancas. At Ano Nuevo, North of Santa Cruz there are docents and guides, and your time and setting for photography is severely limited. At Piedras Blancas, because there is a low bluff separating the people from the elephant seals there is not a time limit, nor docents rushing you along, however, it is 3 to 4 hours from the San Francisco Bay area.
There are no fall colors right now, only cold and clear, or warm and clear of winter. The elephant seals are a fun alternative. Like fall colors, they occur every year, and like fall colors there are always opportunities to learn.
One of the challenges is that the elephant seal coloration is very similar to sand, and so there is not much color contrast. In Lightroom, it is possible to quickly maximize the color contrast (vibrance) which helps.
Another challenge, is finding the visual story to tell. There are lots of elephant seals, but what is a compelling image?
This year I tried adding a flash for lighting. I use a better beamer. I found that it helps by filling in some of high contrast shadows so that there is more shadow detail. Here is what the rig looked like.
I use a tripod and then weight the tripod to help hold it steady, in years past it has often been windy and the whole thing has wanted to blow over without the weight of the backpack holding it in place. The wind also makes it cold, so dress warmly.
This year we stayed in Paso Robles which allowed us to be there in the early morning which has better light than the afternoon shooting, and is not as windy.