Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

with 27 comments

Four years ago today we were heading down California’s Highway 1 in waning daylight when I saw a sign for the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon and drove in to check it out.

In chronological order, you’re seeing three of the pictures I took there. You may be surprised, as I am when I look back at these photographs now, that the first one came about 17 minutes before the second one, and the third followed the second by about 16 minutes. In other words, we got two differently colored sunsets a little over half an hour apart. Hail, metadata, as good an elucidator as a sunset! (Let that last line live on as an idiosyncratic quotation for you today.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2020 at 4:35 AM

27 Responses

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  1. Those sudden travel discoveries are the best.


    November 3, 2020 at 4:47 AM

    • They sure can be. We had our share of them on that trip, along with the many places we intended to go.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2020 at 6:37 AM

  2. We popped in there too driving down from SF to SD. No sunset though, most of the journey was in rain or cloud. I love the way the sky goes through so many colour stages as the sun sets and cloud formations move. One great thing about facing west.


    November 3, 2020 at 5:44 AM

    • From posts and comments I knew about some of the other places out west that you visited. What a surprise to hear that you popped in to the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery the same way we did. Sorry you had clouds and rain rather than our double sunset.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2020 at 6:40 AM

  3. I have to admit, I got stuck on photo #2. I think I’m in LOVE.


    November 3, 2020 at 8:33 AM

  4. This goes to show that sunsets have a dynamic nature and often look best in a movie clip processed in a video editor to speed up the gradual changes in the sunset imagery. In your remarkable photo, it looks like the seals have already lain down to sleep.

    Peter Klopp

    November 3, 2020 at 9:26 AM

    • I’ve never done the kind of sunset video you described. In fact I’ve hardly done any video at all. It seems like such a different world. The seals did seem like they’d called it a day by the time I took the picture shown here. I don’t know whether they wake up in the middle of the night and go hunting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2020 at 4:16 PM

  5. The colors change quickly at the bookends of the day. Beautiful photos, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    November 3, 2020 at 3:54 PM

    • The colors can indeed change quickly. What I didn’t expect was a whole second set of colors after the first fading, although I have seen that in other places from time to time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2020 at 4:17 PM

  6. That’s a good set of memories. I especially like the clouds in your first shot and–of course–the critters in your second.


    November 4, 2020 at 12:36 AM

    • All of these pictures came unexpectedly—and of course welcomely—because we were headed to our motel in Morro Bay for the night and I had no further stops in mind.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 4, 2020 at 8:58 AM

  7. These are all great!!


    November 4, 2020 at 8:07 PM

  8. They sure do look relaxed. Sometimes the sunset, or sunrise, does give one several looks. Both of these are nice.

    Steve Gingold

    November 5, 2020 at 2:40 AM

    • Much more relaxed than I was as I kept working to get pictures of both the seals and the sunset.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 5, 2020 at 6:50 AM

  9. Beautiful beasts and sunsets.


    November 7, 2020 at 3:54 PM

  10. It’s especially touching to see the calves snuggled up to their mothers, no doubt feeling both sleepy and secure as the light falls. I do miss the sunsets I saw from my previous balcony. The great advantage was the view, of course, but it also allowed for watching the changes that came over periods of time. It was easier to be patient in those circumstance; I often would be sitting at my desk and suddenly notice that the quality of the light had changed, requiring a quick camera grab.


    November 10, 2020 at 6:54 AM

    • I understand how these pictures would make you nostalgic for your previous balcony. A change of place, a change of light. And yet you still find good light on good subjects and have grown adept at recording the combinations.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 10, 2020 at 8:27 AM

  11. Super images Steve …


    November 11, 2020 at 12:23 PM

  12. This is near where I lived while in school. The coast is different there than it is here, less than two hundred miles to the north, or in the Los Angeles region, less than two hundred miles to the south.


    November 16, 2020 at 12:57 PM

    • That’s the great thing about California: so many regions and climates in one state.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2020 at 3:07 PM

      • That is why so much of the entertainment industry is here. Before it relocated to the Hollywood region (which is actually several towns in the region), it was based out of Niles in Alameda County. Channing Tatum was here filming something until two days ago. Miley Cirus filmed parts of her video for ‘Malibu’ in the waterfall right outside here (400 miles from Malibu).


        November 20, 2020 at 3:12 PM

        • When looking at scenes in old movies ostensibly showing various places around the world, I’ve often assumed they were actually filmed in California.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 20, 2020 at 5:38 PM

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