What and Where?
“On the Edge” was made along the rugged Northwest coast of Vancouver Island in August, 2017. For seven days, the 71' foot Ocean Light 2 sailboat was our "base-camp" for wildlife and landscape photography. Equipped with a zodiac for visits to shallow inlets and the rough rocky coast, we had the flexibility to pursue wildlife and landscape opportunities throughout this unspoiled region of the Pacific. While most of our humpback, otter, and harbor seal images were photographed in calm and protected waters, the Stellar sea lions always seemed to beach themselves along rocky islands where the surf hammered away with an unrelenting intensity. Access to these locations required the zodiac, and photography here was as unpredictable as anything I have ever experienced. At no time did I feel as if the boat were not experiencing the same unrelenting surge of water that the seals endured day in and day out.
Technically speaking, I relinquished much of my control to the modern electronics in my camera. In an attempt to freeze the water and reduce the inevitable motion blur derived from the unsteady zodiac, I set my camera to auto ISO and a minimum shutter speed of 1/1250 of a second. While I retained control of the aperture by shooting in aperture priority, I let the camera select an ISO that would maximize (actually minimize) the shutter opening based on the parameters I selected for the lens. For photograph pictured, the photo was taken at ISO1400 and f/11 with a Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8VC G2 lens and Tamron converter that I was testing on this day. Despite the crazed shooting conditions, the vibration reduction built into the lens and autofocus capabilities of my Nikon D500 camera allowed me to produce a surprising number of decent photographs.
Why it Works?
Tamy and I saw some pretty amazing animals and landscapes during our seven days at sea, but this day was one of our all time favorite photographic experiences. This type of "cowboy shooting" reminded me of our African safaris that produced an infinite palette of opportunities. The image, "On the Edge," has an interesting balance with the sedate sea lions to the right serving as foil to the active ones on the left. The foreground water and background forested mountains frame the action in a way that draws the viewer into the photograph. The behavior of the animals, rough seas, and frozen waves create a level interest that seem to keep the eyes engaged and searching throughout the image.
Steller sea lions are the sole member of the Genus Eumetopias. Dwarfed by the northern and southern elephant seals as well as the walrus, Steller sea lions are third largest pinniped and biggest of the eared seals. Female sea lions stop growing after their fifth year and weigh between 240 and 350 kg. In contrast, the males grow continuously until they reach sexual maturity, and can weigh as much as 450 to 1120 kg, The extreme dimorphism in male and female mass can be attributed to the intense competition between males for maintaining territorial boundaries, and thus reproductive access to breeding females.
Residing near the top of the food chain, Steller sea lions prey on many fish species and mollusks throughout the Pacific and Bering Sea. Known to eat northern fur seal, harbor seal, and sea otter pups, the Steller sea lion is not without its own dangers, as they can fall prey to migrant orcas and great white sharks. In the 1970's and 80's the Eastern population of sea lions saw a steep decline. While there are numerous hypotheses for the precipitous fall, their present populations now serve as a conservation success story. This once endangered marine mammal was removed from the endangered species list in 2013 because of a strong recovery that extends from the Aleutians Islands to the North Pacific.
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