Do you know what it is like when you live in a place that people want to visit on vacation? I do after having lived, worked and played in some of the worlds most sort after holiday locations. Surfing , fishing and getting away from it all was tough in Australia when the crowds surged during the Christmas break. Well in my current playground, Point Reyes National Seashore, sharing the turf with all the visitors can be just as hard. What becomes really difficult is keeping the wildlife under wraps and protected from the “Yellowstone Effect”. That’s when someone catches you with your camera out and then pulls up to see what is happening. This cascades and there is no hope that the shy wildlife living in this part of the world hanging about. There are a few animals in the park that have become accustomed to people in busy often visited areas such as elk, coyote, owls and a bobcat or two.
This year I also ran into photographers and lots of them. One day I calculated I had seen over a hundred thousand dollars in equipment and lenses being carried around. Well what do you do when you have all these semipro, pro and smartphone wielding image makers at every corner? It’s a National Park and of course it belongs to all of us as Americans and we must encourage visitors to see the beauty of it so I just try to embrace it. Biting my tongue and long hikes saved my soul but I also reached out. I spent one day hanging out with a photographer I had never met before, threw a budding photographer in my truck and showed them what they had come to see and gave a couple of tips here and there. Admittedly there was a few photogs that I did my best to hide from but it was my New Years Day experience that was most enlightening. Having arrived at a beach before sunrise in the morning I set up looking for a wildlife landscape I wanted. This area can have elephant and harbor seals, otters, elk, various sea birds, ducks, osprey, and has interesting terrain. This place is a heaven for photography with the right light. Anyway I had a great morning and never ran into another human being. I tend to be very focused on a subject but while watching a seal in the surf line I noticed an otter trying to get around some rocks during the big tide. Just as it was about make a dash across the beach out of the corner of my eye there was a photographer making her way along the sand. The otter seen her too and started to back off and get nervous bobbing its head up down, side to side. Trying to recover the situation I shouted out “Oi get down there is an otter” not in a bad way but if she did there would have been opportunity for her to take an amazing image. She yelled back “anyone can take photos here”. Oh crikey I thought I’ve just poked the hornets nest. Well that didn’t go well and the otter took off to boot. I watched as this lady made her way down the beach and sat on a log near a sleeping elephant seal. During the 10 minutes following a second larger seal, the one I had been observing was eyeing this smaller animal and barking out its “get out” warning call. Soon the big guy could not stand it any longer and lumbered it’s huge body from the surf. After a short rest it lined up the rival and did a full tilt charge. Now with a much bigger male bearing down upon it the sleeping seal woke up and made a dash up the beach. Undulating it’s mass like a giant bouncing sausage it was headed right at my new found friend siting on the log. Seriously I was laughing so hard when she jumped up and did the same thing the seal had done to get out the way of the charging bull. Later I was back at the trailhead and packing my vehicle when this lady made her way back. As she approached I said ” they are faster than you think hey?” and I got a smile and a laugh. From there we had a cordially and pleasant conversation. We found a few things in common including a connection to West Point and her military service. She went on to tell me about the missions she had done recently around the world including in Puerto Rico where she put her skills to work as an electrical engineer. We talked a bit more about National Parks, photography ( she had just purchased a new camera ) and wildlife before I thanked her for serving our country and we parted ways. To me it was just another reality check about never knowing whom or what you are going to run into when out and about taking photos. Hope you all enjoyed the holidays!