A Favorite Shot From Galapagos

WB IMG_4290

Sea Lion Pup

Espanola Island – Galapagos, Ecuador

1/1600s @ f/5.6 ISO 160 @ FL 400mm

This shot is dedicated to my photographer friend, Doris Potter, in Montreal, Canada.

So why is this a favorite shot?  Well technically it’s a pretty good image:  the focus is acceptably sharp (a do-over would be to stop down my aperture to f/8 for a little more depth of field), it’s well exposed and it’s composed just about right (straight from the camera).

But that’s not the reason.  The reason is that it’s a permanent record of the experience.  This little pup, only about a week old, wouldn’t leave me alone.  From the moment I stepped onto the beach, until the moment I left, he stuck to me like velcro.  He batted my boot with his flipper, and he nuzzled my trousers leg with his inquisitive little nose.

It was hard to photograph him, because he kept getting too close.  There is a 2-metre separation rule in Galapagos, but sometimes it’s virtually impossible to obey—the little critters track you down, like this cutie.  I had to run away, and then turn around and photograph him as he quickly waddled towards me.  At 400mm he rapidly filled my camera’s frame, and I would have to repeat the process.

Did I succumb to temptation and pet him?  The answer is no.  I wanted to, but I knew the consequences.  If you touch a young pup like this you leave your human scent on him. Once that happens the mother immediately rejects the youngster, and over the next few days they starve to death.  Unfortunately I saw examples of this when I was exploring the Galapagos, and it was a very sad sight to see.  So I maintained discipline and followed the rules one hundred percent.  But it wasn’t easy.

Photographer’s note:  This image was captured as a CameraRAW file with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II full-frame digital camera and Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM super-telephoto prime lens.  He was close, very close, and completely filled the frame.  I wish that I had stopped my lens down to f/8 to get a little more depth of field (DOF); when viewed at 100% magnification the image is a little soft around his snout (but his eye is sharp so the image is certainly acceptable).

I converted the RAW image, and completed the initial edits, in Adobe Camera RAW.  Further edits (very minimal) were completed using Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 (PSE11).  The biggest edit involved removing multiple flies from his body and head area (especially around his eye). They were very distracting, both to him and to me, so I used my Clone Stamp tool to remove them.  Trust me, the final image is much better without them.

I took special pains not to over-process this image, it was close to ideal right out of the camera.  The final image isn’t exactly how the camera recorded it (close), but it is EXACTLY how I remember seeing it with my own biological eyes.  In my opinion, the photographer’s responsibility isn’t to make a Xerox copy of the scene before him, but rather to share with others his interpretation of the scene as he saw it (or visualized it).  I believe this image has succeeded on most levels.  SFD

Tilley & Steve San Cristobal WEB

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photographer, Writer and World Traveler

Espanola Island – Galapagos, Ecuador

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2 responses to “A Favorite Shot From Galapagos

  1. Thank you Steve for dedicating this incredible photograph to me and for sharing your experience with all of us. What a lovely, friendly little creature this is!

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