The third feature in our new Gallery series where we let the photos tell the story… This week, Nick and Caroline turn on the cute factor with a look at Grey Seals.
The Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) are a large seal species that lives all around the UK coastline. In fact, over half of the worlds populations calls these waters home. Some colonies have become meccas for diving, like Lundy, The Farne Islands and Puffin Island (North Wales), as the young seals sometimes show a keen interest in diving groups and will come up, pull on fins and even pose for a selfie. It is an incredible experience and once we try to make sure we do at least once a year.
The key to success with close encounters, and therefore, great photo opportunities, is to act cool! Do not chase after the seals, as they will just zoom off into the kelp. If you wait near a gully, or near the surface where they haul out of the water, soon the younger, paler, smaller seals will be too curious and have to come and take a closer look at you. With a bit of patience, you can soon be playing tug of war with your camera, having your camera housing “mouthed” and your fins pulled. This is the time to head up to the shallows and get some natural light shining on your subject and keep shooting until your fingers are too cold to shoot anymore. There are very few dives anywhere in the world where you can have this much fun!
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Image 1: Seal Selfie
Caroline waits for a curious young seal to come up and investigate her and then tries for a selfie. As the dives are shallow you have lots of time to try out new shots. Farne Islands. Nikon D7100, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Nauticam Housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/9; 1/160; ISO 640.
Image 2: Please don’t leave me!
A grey seal hangs on to Nick’s leg as if to try to stop him heading back to the boat at the end of the dive. Notice the cheeky nibble it is having on Nick’s drysuit! Farne Islands. Nikon D700, 16mm lens, Sealux Housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/16; 1/160; ISO 400.
Image 3: A very young seal is surprised to come across us and puts on the brakes. The visibility was dreadful on this dive, but it was still huge fun. Puffin Island. Nikon D200, Tokinal 10-17mm lens, Subal housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/11; 1/160, ISO 500.
Image 4: Give us a kiss!
A diver on our group underwater photography trip makes a special friend. This seal spent the whole 90min dive with this one diver, giving us photographers a perfect subject. Farne Islands. Nikon D7100, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Nauticam housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/9; 1/160; ISO 640.
Image 5: Whiskers
A curious seal comes right up to the camera lens and seems to gaze at its reflection. The white whiskers standing out against a dark sea made it a good image to try a conversion to black and white. Farne Islands. Nikon D700, 16mm lens, Sealux housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/11; 1/160; ISO 400.
Image 6: It was this big…
If you are patient and stay still in the water, the seals will come in close and put on a display. Their fins will come out wide as they stall and turn in the water. I always like shots that have the surface of the water included. Farne Islands. Nikon D200, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Subal housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/8; 1/250; ISO 400.
Image 7: Photobomb!
A grey seal pops into the shot just as Nick presses the shutter button. Got to love the cheeky (and toothy) grin. We had lots of fun on this dive. Farne Islands. Canon EOS 6D, 15mm lens, INON housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/10; 1/125; ISO 320.
Image 8: Caroline plays with a seal and ends up face to face for a close-up shot. Farne Islands.
Nikon D800, 16mm lens, Nauticam Housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/11; 1/125; ISO 640.
If you plan to photograph seals then remember, they are fast moving so you need to have a fairly quick shutter speed. As we shoot them in the UK, sometimes it can be in poor visibility or in darker waters, so set the ISO up a bit and your strobes down a bit. As we always shoot them with fisheye lenses we tend to have our aperture set in the f/8 to f/16 range to give a good depth of field.