Category

Hornby Island

Steller Sea Lions, Eumetopias jubatus, Hornby Island, British Columbia

Canada, Hornby Island, Sea Lion, Underwater Photography

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32660
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

I have a real love for pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). I’ve been in the water with many big animals including whales, sharks, dolphins, massive schools of fish, mola mola, etc etc, but pinnipeds — particularly sea lions — are the most fun to be with. Sea lions are typically curious and engaging, and the speed with which they move usually makes photographing them a challenge. The Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) at Norris Rocks near Hornby Island in British Columbia, however, take the cake. They are akin to gigantic puppies. They are considerably larger than California sea lions, a fact which was immediately apparent the first time I was pinned to the reef by a friendly mob of 20 juvenile Stellers. I had been warned about their antics by a few buddies who have been diving with them for years. One fellow even jokingly (or not) suggested a helmet might be helpful. I processed all this info and wondered whether I should be worried. I had never been in 45F-degree water, had not been in a drysuit in 15 years, was admittedly a little nervous about just surviving in such chilly water, so my dive plan was to hang back and watch the other divers get pummeled. It did not go as planned. Less than 5 minutes after I first got in the water at Norris Rocks I found myself face down on the reef, both wrists and both ankles firmly in the grip (re: mouth) of at least four different sea lions, regulator gently tugged by a fifth, and several others trying to nuzzle their faces close to mine for a look. Holy shit, I thought, is this stupid, crazy or super fun? Yes, yes, and yes. Every piece of my gear was a chew toy. Every one of my limbs was a chew toy. My head was a chew toy. It was an exhilarating, intimidating, wonderful experience to be with a mob of Steller sea lions, such a dense group that it would often blot out what little sunlight was reaching the bottom. While I try to avoid anthropomorphising the animals I meet underwater, these Stellers were so inquisitive, with so much very close eye contact, that every dive was a moving experience. Every time I got out of the water I felt more alive than I had in a long time. It only took a few dives for me to become comfortable with the action, and I found that even while getting mobbed I was still able to lift my camera up enough to snap off a photo or two. Granted, most of them were crap, either because the sea lions were too close for the strobe to light properly, or both strobes had been yanked backward by a couple sea lions, or there were simply too many bubbles in the water for anything sensible to be photographed.

Steller Sea Lions and Bald Eagles atop Norris Rocks, Hornby Island and Vancouver Island, panoramic photo, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller Sea Lions and Bald Eagles atop Norris Rocks, Hornby Island and Vancouver Island, panoramic photo
Image ID: 32659
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

I joined underwater photographer Richard Salas for the week. Richard’s work is exceptional and caught my eye some years ago. His style of lighting is especially appealing, bringing his broad experience as a studio and commercial photographer to the underwater world. When I found that my schedule allowed me to join him at Hornby Island to dive with Steller sea lions, I jumped at the chance in spite of my lack of experience in cold water. He gave me lots of great advice beforehand. Armed with a new drysuit I joined Richard and his group of friends at Hornby Island Diving. Rob and Amanda Zielinski run the lodge and dive operation on their property at the waters edge on beautiful Hornby Island. Rob took us diving in his comfortable, quick boat at dive spots just a few minutes from the dock. Amanda runs the lodge where we experienced superb food and lots of peace and quiet to keep us comfortable and warm between dives. Hornby Island Diving is a excellent operation, one of the best I have seen, which is especially important given the weather and water temps can be tough in winter. We had overcast skies most days with a couple of blue sky days, very little wind and calm seas. Water temps were right around 45F the entire week. Water visibility was great, relatively clean with a beautiful emerald green color. We dove twice a day with lunch between dives. I took a day off midweek to make a couple really beautiful hikes on Hornby Island. Over 6 days of diving I made 10 dives at Norris Rocks (and a couple dives elsewhere) and shot thousands of photographs, trying to squeek out a few good images in the chaos of action, bubbles, flippers and teeth that really portray how beautiful these huge creatures are. Gradually some keepers emerged, a couple on each dive, and in the end I was pleased with the images I made. These are some of my favorites. I am planning to return in 2019 for more. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32661
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32662
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32663
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32664
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32670
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32679
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32685
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Young Steller sea lions mock jousting underwater,  a combination of play and mild agreession, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Young Steller sea lions mock jousting underwater, a combination of play and mild agreession, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32695
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater bubble display, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater bubble display, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32757
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32675
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32687
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32737
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32777
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32788
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32789
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada