A year ago, Nancy bought me a ticket for a sunrise photo tour of the beaches at Ano Nuevo State Park when the elephant seals were taking over the place. I posted shots of that here if you want to reference back. I was keen to try the whole thing again this year but there was no sign of it on the website. One morning, I happened to look again and not only was it available but all sessions were sold out except one. I clicked on that one and found that only one ticket was left so bought it straight away. As with last year, I found myself up horribly early in the morning outside the gate of the park waiting for the ranger to show up. Unlike last year when the weather was cold, wet and windy, this year the skies were clear and there was no wind. I had actually overdressed after my previous experience.
We got to a series of locations where we were really in amongst the seals. It was predominantly males although there were some females and a few pups scattered in amongst them. Because the weather had been warm, the seals had stayed close to the water. In cooler weather they can often be found well up in the dunes.
The males were not as aggressive as last year. There were a few confrontations while we were there, some of which drew a little blood. However, the ranger said that they had already sized each other up so the hierarchy was quite established. We did see a few scuffles and there were occasions where the males headed for the females causing some evasion tactics and sometimes when they didn’t move fast enough!
The contrast to the previous year was obvious from a photography perspective. This time I had taken a tripod having found the last time that you weren’t constantly on the move and that the early light needed it. We did have far nicer light as well with the sun showing up and providing some great warmth in the shots taken early on. This is a fun thing to do and you are finished by about 9:30. You can then enjoy the rest of the park if you wish. However, part of you will be trying to get the smell out of your nose. Hanging around in amongst elephant seals does introduce you to a fragrance you won’t forget in a hurry.