Monday, August 30, 2010

Patience, Luck...and Crawling

Harbor Seal, Svalbard

As I came ashore on a remote beach in Leifdefjorden, a single harbor seal was resting on an offshore rock. I was convinced that he would abandon his spot as soon as I started towards him, so I took a half dozen shots from 100 yards away. As other people came ashore, I was convinced that he wouldn't stand for all the disturbance, and moved on.  But to my astonishment, he stayed where he was, periodically lifting his head to check on the intrusion, but refusing to budge. A little while later, I carefully tried to get closer (not wanting to be the guy that scared him off).  He never moved. I got a few more shots, better ones. Then I started off exploring the tundra, while others took their turn.

Half an hour later I was back at the shore again, and the seal was still there! Only now the tide had risen, and the rock he was lying on had disappeared: it looked as though he was resting on the surface of the water.  This time, I crawled closer until I was lying right at the water's edge, my camera resting on a rock only a couple of inches above the ground. (I was so low, in fact, that I had to compose while looking sideways through the viewfinder...try that sometime..!)  The seal lifted its head for just a moment - and I got this image. Satisfied, I backed away.

There is no joy in pressing an animal for a picture until it leaves in fear or annoyance. As a wildlife photographer, I consider it a success when I can leave my subject right where I first saw it, undisturbed. As I returned to the ship, the seal was still there...albeit a bit wetter.

Nikon D300, 300mm f2.8 lens


  1. Patience+Luck+Crawling+Ethics+Enjoyment of crawling+Enjoyment of getting the shot+Enjoyment of sharing+Working for conservation=Success (in wildlife photography)
    Thanks for sharing your secret formula Sir.

  2. Secret formula....sounds like a hair gel! But I especially like the "enjoyment of crawling" - tell that to my aging knees!