Category

Wildlife

La Jolla Bluffs, Gulls, Cormorants and Pelicans

Pelicans

I have not been down to the La Jolla bluffs to see the birds for a couple weeks to see my favorite seabirds, the California race of the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), so I thought I would take a look this morning. I had hoped the projected swell would be up this morning, allowing for flight shots over breaking surf, but it looks like the waves will not arrive until tomorrow. Its a good thing I waited until the weekend, as a buddy who was just there mentioned that the situation was less than copecetic when he photographed there yesterday. This morning was slow on the bird action but still fun, and I bumped into a couple San Diego photographers I had not seen in a year so that was nice. I took very few photos, instead taking in the warm sun. It was nearly glass calm all morning. This is what I kept from this morning, all shot handheld with 5DIII and 300/2.8, razor sharp on the eyes and little or no cropping needed:

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28968
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28969
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28970
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch
Image ID: 28979
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See more California brown pelican photos and a little PDF e-guide about this choice spot.

California Brown Pelicans in Flight, La Jolla, California

Pelicans

The morning light along our coast has been very nice lately, not to mention our temps have been balmy while the rest of the country is in deep freeze. I’ve had a couple nice morning sessions photographing my favorite seabirds, the California race of the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), including some views of adults in winter plumage (red/olive throat, white/yellow head, chestnut brown hindneck, both mating and non-mating varieties) against not only blue water but also rocks and shadowed sea cliffs.

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28968
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

These were all made this morning with a full frame camera and 300mm f/2.8 lens, hand-held, on the upper part of the bluff in La Jolla. I choose to shoot only on clear sky mornings, and don’t begin shooting until the sun just crests Mount Soledad and begins to shine on the pelicans as they approach the bluff in flight (I have enough photos of pelicans in shadow that frankly I never want another). That would be about 7:40 these days, although I do arrive early so I can slowly find a position before the homecoming birds arrive without disturbing the ones that are already there. I try not to focus on immature pelicans any longer; it might be good practice but their coloration just does not make for appealing images (except as documentary shots which serious bird photographers shoot much better than I). I position myself so that the light is over my shoulder and my shadow is pointed where I think the pelicans will be, and then I wait and wait and wait until a pelican crosses through the waiting composition. (I use the same technique underwater shooting sharks and sea lions, choosing a composition that makes good use of the light and my focal length and then waiting for the subjects to play their part). This morning I only had about 6-8 decent flight passes by mature adults, but they were productive and I managed a keeper from each one. If you are curious, I’ve compiled my thoughts on photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla in a PDF article. Cheers and thanks for looking!

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28969
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28972
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28970
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch
Image ID: 28979
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28977
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28971
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Seabird Entanglement in Monofilament Fishing Line

Environmental Problems, Pelicans

Unfortunately, I have another image of wildlife entanglement to share, this time a California brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) entangled in monofilament fishing line. This seabird appeared to me to have ingested a hook or lure, so that one end of the monofilament fishing line was down its throat while the remainder of the line was wrapped in and around the pelican’s beak and neck. I have other photos of monofilament fishing line injury to marine wildlife. I also had a blog post some time ago about Seabird and Sea Lion Entanglement Photos.

Brown pelican, entangled in monofilament fishing line, showing winter mating plumage colors, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican, entangled in monofilament fishing line, showing winter mating plumage colors
Image ID: 28966
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Ghost Cormorant

Abstract, Birds

A cormorant speeds home to its nest in the La Jolla seacliffs, flying just above the waves. Shot long before sunrise, this image is blurred from the long time the shutter was open.

Great White Shark Portrait

Great White Shark, Sharks, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

This great white shark photo (Carcharodon carcharias) was shot under dark skies, in early morning. These are tough conditions to shoot underwater with only available light. I prefer to shoot without strobes whenever possible but in the days of film this particular morning would have required I use artificial lights. Digital cameras, however, have changed all that and allow shooting in dark and flat lighting conditions that film did not. I hope to get back down to Guadalupe Island later this year to reshoot these sharks with the current cameras I am using (5D Mark III and D800). I think I have made 15 trips to the island (I’ve lost count) and I never get tired of Isla Guadalupe. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Great white shark, underwater, Carcharodon carcharias, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Great white shark, underwater.
Image ID: 21360
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Whale Triple Header: Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, Fin Whales, Del Mar, California

Blue Whale, Humpback Whale

GREAT WHALE TRIPLEHEADER. What’s that you say? Read on…

This is a photograph of a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) performing a peduncle throw (or “tail throw”, or “tail lob”). The man who taught me most of what I know about whales, friend and whale researcher Dr. Dan Salden, often referred to this behavior as a “peduncle throw” and that is the term I prefer to use but whale watching captains will call it all sorts of names. The whale pivots around its long pectoral fins, dips its rostrum (head) down and violently catapults its peduncle and fluke high out the water, throwing a mighty cascade of spray throughout the air. What a sight! I remember my first season working with Dan’s whale research team, seeing this behavior for the first time, and having him explain to me what he thought might be going on underwater that would motivate the whale to do such a thing. In this case the whale was apparently alone and had been doing it for some time. We saw the splashing from over a mile away and drove over to take a closer look. I never did see any other animals in the vicinity of this whale and could not figure out why it was breaching, peduncle throwing and tail slapping.

A humpback whale raises it fluke out of the water, the coast of Del Mar and La Jolla is visible in the distance, Megaptera novaeangliae

A humpback whale raises it fluke out of the water, the coast of Del Mar and La Jolla is visible in the distance.
Image ID: 27142
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Del Mar, California, USA

The campus of UCSD is seen high on the bluffs in the distance. When I was in college I would to gaze out the windows of those building during class, staring at the ocean and hang gliders that would fly past. The humpback remained surface active for a while, and later transitioned to fluke slapping and inverted tail lobs:

A humpback whale raises it fluke out of the water, the coast of Del Mar and La Jolla is visible in the distance, Megaptera novaeangliae

A humpback whale raises it fluke out of the water, the coast of Del Mar and La Jolla is visible in the distance.
Image ID: 27130
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Del Mar, California, USA

This humpback was just part of a rare GREAT WHALE TRIPLEHEADER, in which we shot photographs underwater of three different species of great whales: blue whales, humpback whales and fin whales.

It was quite a day to say the least. Here are a few of the non-humpbacks we saw that day. Check out the fin whale, his buddy can be seen in the distance just beyond him, identifiable by the lightly colored lower right side jaw that is characteristic of fin whales. Also check out the bizarre fluke on this blue whale, with the bluffs of Del Mar in the distance.

Fin whale underwater. The fin whale is the second longest and sixth most massive animal ever, reaching lengths of 88 feet, Balaenoptera physalus

Fin whale underwater. The fin whale is the second longest and sixth most massive animal ever, reaching lengths of 88 feet.
Image ID: 27597
Species: Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus

Blue whale fluking up (raising its tail) before a dive to forage for krill, La Jolla, California

Blue whale fluking up (raising its tail) before a dive to forage for krill.
Image ID: 27119
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Blue whale fluking up (raising its tail) before a dive to forage for krill, La Jolla, California

Blue whale fluking up (raising its tail) before a dive to forage for krill.
Image ID: 27122
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Fin whale underwater. The fin whale is the second longest and sixth most massive animal ever, reaching lengths of 88 feet, Balaenoptera physalus

Fin whale underwater. The fin whale is the second longest and sixth most massive animal ever, reaching lengths of 88 feet.
Image ID: 27594
Species: Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus

We finished the day with a great sunset of Mount Soledad on our way back to Mission Bay. One of those “top 10 days”.

Panorama of La Jolla, with Mount Soledad aglow at sunset, viewed from the Pacific Ocean offshore of San Diego

Panorama of La Jolla, with Mount Soledad aglow at sunset, viewed from the Pacific Ocean offshore of San Diego.
Image ID: 27086
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

End of the World Pelicans

Pelicans

I figured the Mayan World’s End is coming soon, so I would go photograph some pelicans before it was all over. Here are a few new photographs of brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus). Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28356
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28357
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight, spreading wings wide to slow in anticipation of landing on seacliffs, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican in flight, spreading wings wide to slow in anticipation of landing on seacliffs.
Image ID: 28354
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage
Image ID: 28351
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, early morning pink sky, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, early morning pink sky
Image ID: 28353
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

I’ve compiled my thoughts on photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla in a PDF article.

If you like these photos, you can also see lots more blog posts from past sessions photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla. Or, I’ve got a gallery of some keepers on my website, but most of the good ones from the last couple years I have not even gotten around to captioning and putting the web yet: California Brown Pelican photo gallery.

Brown Pelican and Belt of Venus

Pelicans

I set up to make photographs of brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) in front of the thin pastel colors of the “belt of Venus”, or “Earth Shadow”, that forms just above the horizon at dawn and dusk when atmospheric conditions are favorable. If you can’t envision what the Belt of Venus looks like, check it out on this photograph of Earth Shadow over Morro Rock. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Brown pelican in flight, softly lit by flash against pink predawn sky, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican in flight, softly lit by flash against pink predawn sky
Image ID: 28346
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

I’ve compiled my thoughts on photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla in a PDF article.

If you like these photos, you can also see lots more blog posts from past sessions photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla. Or, I’ve got a gallery of some keepers on my website, but most of the good ones from the last couple years I have not even gotten around to captioning and putting the web yet: California Brown Pelican photo gallery.

Braking to Land

Pelicans

This morning offered about 30 minutes of good light before the clouds took the sun away. Here are a few of photographs of brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) returning from the ocean where they have been foraging for food, spreading their large wings wide as they brake to land on the sea cliffs above the cave. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Brown pelican in flight, spreading wings wide to slow in anticipation of landing on seacliffs, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican in flight, spreading wings wide to slow in anticipation of landing on seacliffs.
Image ID: 28333
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight, spreading wings wide to slow in anticipation of landing on seacliffs, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican in flight, spreading wings wide to slow in anticipation of landing on seacliffs.
Image ID: 28336
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight, spreading wings wide to slow in anticipation of landing on seacliffs, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican in flight, spreading wings wide to slow in anticipation of landing on seacliffs.
Image ID: 28334
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Image ID: 28335
Species: Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Double-crested cormorants in flight at sunrise, long exposure produces a blurred motion, La Jolla, California

Double-crested cormorants in flight at sunrise, long exposure produces a blurred motion
Image ID: 28339
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

I’ve compiled my thoughts on photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla in a PDF article.

If you like these photos, you can also see lots more blog posts from past sessions photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla. Or, I’ve got a gallery of some keepers on my website, but most of the good ones from the last couple years I have not even gotten around to captioning and putting the web yet: California Brown Pelican photo gallery.

International Conservation Photography Awards 2012

Environmental Problems, Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Art Wolfe hosts the biennial International Conservation Photography Awards (“ICP Awards”). One of my images was honored in the 2010 edition of the competition, so I decided to try again this year. My photograph of a young California sea lion entangled in monofilament fishing line, taken in the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve in Baja California, was selected in the “Natural Environment At Risk” category, which seems quite fitting given the competition is meant to highlight conservation and issues relating to the natural world. Thank you Art and ICP Awards! To see all the recognized images — and you should since there are some spectacular photos in this year’s competition — check out: http://icpawards.com/2012winners.php

California sea lion injured by fishing line, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion injured by fishing line
Image ID: 27419
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico