When I left the prairies to look for wildlife in northern California, the first thing I found was … culture shock. I am used to creatures built for speed, camouflage and generally avoiding me, but dealing with sea creatures left me scrambling to figure the whole thing out.
Here are five things I learned along the way:
1. There are a lot of places to hide.
It’s not exactly news that the ocean is big but it sure is impressive to someone from the prairies. Whales can hide their massive bodies everywhere and suddenly appear wherever I’m not looking. I thot I was fast with a camera but this required a whole lot more focus and speed. Advantage whales.
2. Butt shots are good.
The ocean turns this whole concept of butt shots on its head. A butt shot on the prairies means I missed the shot. However, on the ocean, a whale’s butt … err tail … is often all you get to see so capturing it is a good thing I think. I’m still a bit confused on this one.
3. Sea lions don’t hang out on rocks.
I had this grand idea of capturing sea lions lounging on the rocks. Now they might do that in places I didn’t look but I only found them on docks and wharfs. It was not the idyllic photo I had in mind. In hindsight, I missed my opportunity waiting for an opportunity that never came. I guess sea lions like hanging around boats and people.
4. Everyone has whiskers.
I knew that sea lions and seals don’t look anything alike … until one of them pops its head out of the water for a quick look and disappears. Apparently a lot of sea creatures are endowed with whiskers so it’s a little more confusing than I first thot. I learned that sea lions have an ear cover that seals don’t and they certainly are noisier! And nobody shaves.
5. Elephant seals look dead.
A hot sandy hike brought me over the crest of a hill to catch my first glimpse of elephant seals … and they were all dead. At least they looked dead as they slept motionless on the beach. It was a bit eerie until I finally noted some movement. Thankfully a loud disagreement saved me from only a morgue shot.
My conclusion was that a little culture shock and a little learning was good. The next time I resurface on a California ocean, I will be a little wiser. Stay tuned for more non-prairie creatures!