Friday, January 20, 2017

Sea, Seals & Sky

The difference between a good and bad seal photo: time and effort

Have you ever made eye-contact with a seal?
An early attempt

One beautiful fall morning, I spotted a dog-like creature with big, curious eyes paddling around the fishing boats. In one slick arc, it dove quickly out of view, but I was sure: I had seen a seal in the wild, and I was overjoyed.

I called Bruce Berman immediately. "One seal? There will be more" he promised. For the first time in my life, I couldn't wait for it to get colder!

The seal made me inexplicably happy. Each day I looked forward to spotting the dark eyes and slippery fur peering up from the surface of the water. Save the Harbor taught me to share the treasures of the Harbor, which I decided was possible with a great photograph of a seal.

Dark spotted seal and light grey seal, diving out of view at the same time
I had a mission- get a good photo of a seal. Easy, right? Not quite- I spent weeks catching blurry, distant photos from the office window. I always seemed to miss the seal just as it dove under the water. I got the team involved: Diana Acosta, an intern at the time, explained that seals can hold their breath for more than twenty minutes, so once they dive, there's no telling when they will pop back up.

For the rest of 2016, I would only see one seal in the morning. I cajoled Trevor Etheridge, also a busy intern, into accompanying me as a lookout. Teamwork really does pay off: armed with a sensible camera, we were able to get a decent shot- but we were determined to do better.
Seal that Trevor spotted

Far away seal, looking up
January arrived with opportunity. One busy Friday, four seals were swimming around the pier, looking for scraps from the fishing boats. "FOUR seals!" I exclaimed, calling my coworkers to the conference room- but as they do, the seals dove out of sight, and nobody else saw them. Some may have worried that I was losing my mind.

By 2:00 that Friday, I began to lose hope. The day had gone by in a blur- I ran out at lunch: no seals. I saw the seals from the window: no time to run out. I saw seals, ran downstairs, had my camera ready: no luck.

Bashful-looking seal
Max Iwuala, a summer staff member who is re-joining the team, arrived for a meeting at 3:00. Max is one of the most charismatic, hard-working people I have ever met; he asks poignant questions, he makes everyone laugh, and he plays a mean game of chess. This particular Friday, Max was coming in to join our curriculum review project.

By 4:00, daylight was running out. As soon as we wrapped up a meeting, I told Bruce that there were four seals in the harbor. I didn't need to explain further; he pointed to Max and said "well go get a photo, and take him with you!"

We nearly ran out the door.

One of Max's seal photos
I am half-convinced that Max has superpowers. He could hardly believe his eyes when he first saw the seals, but within minutes, he could spot them faster than I could. I passed him the camera, and just like that, he did what I had been trying to do for months: he captured incredible photos of the seals. Despite the gusty winds and 18-degree weather, we took photos until it grew too dark.

 We hope you enjoy these photos. Keep an eye out for seals this winter, and remember to share the joy that the Harbor brings you!

Whiskers on display

Take care, friends!


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