22nd Nov 2013

WILD NZ PART 1: New Zealand Fur Seals

For me, photographing wildlife is always a challenge. You never know what's going to happen; sometimes you wait for hours on end and see nothing… But every now and again, you get lucky.

But more than luck, its all about timing and patience. You need the right light, the right angles and the right situation, which is created by the animals themselves. Nature is something that has always amazed me and I'm never happier than when I'm surrounded by the natural world. So peaceful and forever changing.

I recently spent four days with a group of New Zealand Fur Seals or Kekeno as they are known to the Maori. They are incredible creatures and although widespread throughout the country, a huge number of them come to the shores of Kaikoura, in the South Island, to raise their pups and rest from their long sea bound excursions to find food. This stretch of coastline with its rocky outcrops, nooks and crannies, provides an excellent breeding ground for the seals and enables the young pups to be protected from the harsh storms that often batter the coastline.

With my camera and a variety of lenses in hand, I approached the colony with the stealth similar to that of a lion hunting its prey. Cautiously crawling over the jagged rocks and exceedingly slippery seaweed, I made my way closer to the heart of the colony. I was aware that these animals can be quite ferocious when threatened and although they appear sluggish, they can really move if they want to, so I made sure not to make any sudden movements.

I had a few grey blankets, which emulated the tones found in the rocks that the seals come to rest on; I used these to camouflage myself. Although I ended up extremely close to the seals, my presence went unnoticed for the most part which allowed me to shoot these blubbery creatures in a variety of situations. Once they realised I was there, to my amazement, they did'nt seem to feel threatened at all and some seemed to even pose for the camera.

Observing their behavior was a great experience for me. It’s interesting how fast you notice the hierarchy within the ranks as they tussle and fight for position and female attention.

Here are a few of the shots from the time I spent at the Ohau Point Seal Colony, and I have a feeling that this will not be the last time our paths cross. My next visit will be with a water housing and my wetsuit…