*click to see photos*
I've wanted to go down to San Simeon to photograph elephant seals since Jim Watt visited last year. He drove down after we went diving, but I was unable to go.
On Saturday, I took Adam Tow and Rae down there to photograph mating elephant seals with Chris Humphreys and a few of her wildlife photographer friends. They have some really cool equipment: 600mm lenses and huuuge tripods! Chris is a lot of fun to hang out with (I spent a lot of time with her when we were in Wakatobi last month). She's got an infectious laugh, and gets very excited about animals (both topside and underwater).
As we drove past Hearst Castle, Rae asked, "Are those zebras?" Yep. It's bizarre, but there's a herd of zebras at Hearst Castle.
Most sea lions and seals I've seen are sort of cute, but elephant seals are definitely not cute. The babies are sort of cute (in a pathetic, wormy way), but after they grow up they're just weird looking. Pups make a high-pitched, bird-like crying sound, older females emit a low-pitched grown/roar, and big males arch their backs and make deep popping sounds that can probably be heard for miles. Elephant seals are the largest of the seal species; males can get up to around 14 feet long and can weigh almost 6,000 pounds! A few of the males we saw were 12 feet long -- they were scary. Some of the big guys were close to the path, and as I walked by, I actually *felt* fear, which doesn't even happen when I'm around similarly-sized sharks in the water.
All of us were hoping to photograph births. Three females popped during our time there, but the little pups must just shoot out because we didn't even notice until the seagulls arrived to eat the afterbirth.