Seals, Otters, and Birds of the California Coast

January 7-11, 2013
Limited to 6 participants
$950

Ring in the New Year – Wildlife Style!

Elephant SealsIs there a better way to start off 2013 than spending it at one of nature’s greatest spectacles? I can’t think of a better way! Each year, hundreds of enormous Elephant Seals haul themselves up out of the depths of the Pacific Ocean onto the sandy beaches of central California. Over the next few months they will not fed and many will not return to the water as the females prepare to give birth. Our workshop’s timing is chosen to coincide with the birth of the new pups and there should be many of these pups born with days of our visit for us to photograph.

Elephant Seal CallingAside from the mothers weaning their pups, many of the bulls (reaching weight in excess of 5000 lbs.) will also be on the beach. Although most of the fighting happens earlier in the winter, we should still have plenty of opportunities to photograph sparring bulls, especially the younger males. All of the myriad of behavior the seals can show will be set against the spectacular scenery of the rocky coast of the region. In between the time we spend with the elephant seals, we’ll have chances to focus on some of the stunning landscapes and other sea life present in the region.

Sea OtterAfter two and a half days with the seals, we’ll head to our second destination. Here we’ll have to opportunity to work with a variety of subjects. One of the favorites are the zany Sea Otters that feed in the kelp beds. Other sea mammals include Harbor Seals and California Sea Lions, both of which haul out in the vicinity.

Western GrebeIn addition to the mammal life, there will be some fantastic birds around. We should have great opportunities with unique Long-billed Curlews, striking Black Oystercatchers, and comical Whimbrels. Black Turnstones, Heermann’s Gulls, White-throated Sparrows, and Surfbirds are all common. We’ll also head to a location that is great for ducks, loons, and grebes during the winter.

Long-billed CurlewWe’ll spend our mornings and afternoons photographing, but the middle of the day will be filled with instructional classes. The classes cover topics pertinent to our subjects including: seal biology and how to capture it with photographs, flight photography, using natural light, and post-processing wildlife photographs. The workshop is limited to 6 participants, so there will be plenty of individual hands-on learning. During the photo sessions Robert will be focused on teaching and helping participants, not taking photos for his own portfolio. You’ll leave the workshop with some dynamite photos, but more importantly with improved skills and a better understanding of wildlife photography.

California CoastRequirements: Elephant Seals are enormous creatures and we’ll be fairly close to them, so a lens in the 200-400 range works well for this. The pups start out small and the birds can require more reach. I’d recommend at least a 400mm on a cropped sensor for these subjects, and if you have a teleconverter or longer lens, they can certainly help. Most of our subjects will only require short walks, but one location’s shoot will involve a moderate hike with you equipment over well-groomed but inclined trails.

This trip is split between the San Simeon and Morro Bay areas of California with a 30 minute drive between the areas on the 3rd day. Participants are responsible for their own lodging, ground transportation, and any park entrance fees. The workshop prices is $950 and a deposit of $300 is required to reserve a spot. Please see our refund policy for refund details. We hope you can join us to ring in the New Year with the amazing animals of the California coast!

Sign up for the workshop here.

Read about other Theme workshops here.

(The photographs on this page represent just a few taken over a 5 day period in January by Robert Rommel.)

Bull Elephant Seal
Elephant Pup and Mother
Sparring Elephant Seals
Sea Otter
Sea Otter
Sea Lion
Turkey Vulture
Bufflehead
Western Gull
Heerman's Gull
Say's Phoebe

Pacific Sunrise