Monday, 21 November 2011

Grey Seals from London?

So yesterday I was on the North Coast of Cornwall photographing anything going really. I ended up seeing a lot of stuff that I dont normally see, including dolphins off shore!
Once the dolphins had passed I started photographing a pair of seals playing just off the rocks in the shallow water. After a few minuets I realised that the seals had taggs on there flippers and I spent a few minuets trying to capture an image of these taggs to send to the Cornwall Seal Group for Identification.

The first tag said: "informLondon Zoo"
The second said : "80005"

I reported this data to the Seal group and I found out that, the seal with 80005 is a male called Triffid and he was last seen on 05/09/11.

This is the information I sent to the seal group with the images of the tags, 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Project Trailer

Here is a link to a project trailer that shows film from a project im working on.

please have a look at let me know what you think

Monday, 31 October 2011

Please Watch This

A video of a young seal pup caught is a lobster pot. I will let you make up your own opinions of the video.

But please comment and let me know your thoughts

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Lizard Point Seal Story

Today was a very sad day down at Lizard Point. In the last week an unknown grey seal had given birth in the back of a natural sea cave close to the lizard point. The pup had been out of sight of the public until yesterday when it was seen close to the waters edge feeding from its mother. When I went down this morning at about 10.30 the mother was around looking upwards into the cove. All day the mother would haul up the beach get to the top look around for the pup but she never seemed to find it. After many attempts of looking for the pup to feed it, she eventually gave up and kept returning to the water. At around 3.30 myself and an employee at the seal sanctuary were asked to see if the pup was still present in the cove. 

After a few minuets of waiting for the mother to dive we crept round the rocks in to the cove only to find that there was no seal pup present. Large piles of kelp and a lot of litter was in plentiful numbers but the young seal pup was no where to be seen. My guess is that spring tides and rough seas must have carried the pup away last night, or that is was caught and buried under large piles of kelp on the beach. Either way, watching the female trying to find its pup was heat breaking. 

On a brighter note, here is a shot of a healthy seal pup called Quiche on the North Coast

1/1000 sec f 3.2 @ 300mm

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Yesterday was the second day of my project and it got off to a great start. With two newly born pubs on a small secluded beach near to one of the north coast haul out sites. While filming these pups I was able to observe the behaviour the two mothers were showing towards not only their own pup but also each other and particular males that entered the area. I have produced a short 2 minuet sequence with my own narration and this will be posted on monday as I will be showing it to my class within a presentation.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

My Project!

Tomorrow, I start my project! my third and final ear at university starts tomorrow. Hopefully this year and with my documentary in production it is going to be not only a massive learning curve but also hugely rewarding. I will hopefully have daily updates and small samples of my work live on here but I will be keeping my final work for a final screening at a later date.

Let this project begin..........

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Seal Pup

Yesterday I saw my first seal pup! Hopefully this will not be the last because it was really nice to see this in the wild. I was watching for about an hour and in this time the pup spent a small amount fo time feeding and then lay back to rest. This blog will start to get very busy now as I am soon to be starting my final project on the North Atlantic Grey Seal. 

Saturday, 10 September 2011

North Coast Seals

Here a few of the seals present this evening. In total there were about 25-30 seals in the area but I was unable to count exactly as more kept appearing. It was very dark so my images were not great but..... there ok. 

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Grey Seals Sequence

Here is a link to a short video captured yesterday whilst freediving with Grey Seals in Cornwall!
Please watch in HD!

Also let me know what you think

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Underwater with Seals

Today I put my freedive training to use! I decided to go and check out a site which I have dived before and it was a really success. I wanted to go to the site so that I could do a count of the seals present and as it is far from the nearest dry viewing platform the best way to see the seals is either by kayak or swimming. I decided to swim as it is way more fun and I wanted to get some underwater shots of the seals. The visibility in the water was not good however the seals came close enough to get some average images.

Present at the site was:
1 large adult male
2 Females - one juvenile and one adult
1 juvenile male

Friday, 2 September 2011

Dissertation Project

I am currently planning my third year final project at University. I am going to conduct a large photographic project under the title of:

'The positive and negative effects of human impact on Grey Seals'

I want to look at grey seal populations locally within Cornwall and also around the UK. This should hopefully allow me to raise awareness about the species and how they are being effect in both 'positive and Negative ways '

My final work will hopefully consist of a documentary film and photographic prints. Some of my work will be put on my blogs and with in my website however when the project is finished I will publish it all in a variety of forms and hopefully have a book for sale and my film for sale also.

Photographing Grey Seals

In order to photograph portraits of Grey Seals I have one trick which I try to use as much as possible! I get my lens as low to the ground/water surface as possible! I lie on my front holding my camera just above the water surface, I stand waist deep in the sea in a wetsuit or I might scarifice getting soaked by a wave if it means I can get a certain angle. I have been so low in the past that a large wave has raised the seal above my level and I have been looking up at it! 

By getting low you are basically erasing the background of the image. You are causing the background to be far in the distance because you are down at water level. This helps the subject to stand out and therefore can be easily viewed with in the image. For more information on this topic please visit, the tutorials section of my website at:

The image below is taken at a very low angle and I am in fact lying flat to the ground on the edge of a wave cut platform. Hopefully this information is helpful to you and please remember seals should never be disturbed while taking photographs. Make no sudden movements and try to not make direct eye contact as this often causes them to spook. 

Thursday, 9 June 2011


Margaret is an adult female, North Atlantic Grey Seal. She has been living on the South Coast of Cornwall Since I first met her on the 27th March 2011.  

Sue Sayer from the Cornwall Seal Group, has been trying to find records of this seal and generally find out more about her. Up until today this has not been possible. However, an image of her has been found from the 15th of May 2010, taken by Hannah and Duncan on board Marine Discovery. (

This image, when placed next to one of mine, clearly shows the same seal. This is really exiting news and I am hoping that in the near future, we should be able to find out more about her and possibly where she has been seen before. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Underwater Observation

I have been observing a specific behaviour over the last few months in one Seal only. This seal is Noah, a large adult male Grey Seal that currently can be found on the south coast of Cornwall. While he is breathing at the surface recovering from a dive, he is able to turn his head and aim his eyes in to the water. I believe that this allows him to view under the surface of the water. He will do this every 10 seconds or so and he will flick his eyes from this downward position back to the surface to view the two sides of the water surface in turn. 

The image above shows this particular seal viewing underwater with his head still at the surface. I believe that this behaviour is performed so that they remain aware of there surroundings and they are reducing any risk of danger.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Exhale Diving

North Atlantic Grey Seals are able to dive to depths of up to 70m. These dives ranging commonly between 30-70 meters can last 5-10 minuets. After re surfacing only a short recovery time is needed before these dives can be made again. The nostrils are automatically sealed closed and this can only be done intentionally. This mean that when underwater the nostrils are closed and when the seal is breathing at the surface they can be opened to allow for large volumes of air to pass through into the lungs. This can be seen in the images below:

This image above clearly shows the Grey Seal with large open nostrils. This mean that this adult male 'Noah' is intentionally opening his nostrils to breathe.

 The above image shows the opposite. Closed nostrils at the far end of the head show that the seal is not exhaling or inhaling. This seal had just surfaced from a 4 min dive and was just about to commence breathing. This usually starts with a low pitched snort as the seal contracts a set of muscles and the nostrils are held open. 

Seals have also adapted a very interesting method of preparing for a dive.  In human freedivers, the aim of preparation breathing is to inhale as much air as possible so that a substantial amount of oxygen can be held in the blood, specifically in the haemoglobin in our red blood cells. Grey Seals are slightly different. Firstly they have a blood volume that is 1.5 - 2 times the capacity of a human. Their blood contains higher quantities of haemoglobin and therefor they are able to store higher quantities of oxygen. Also Seals are able to store oxygen with in pigments that make up the muscles, This pigment is called myoglobin. Before a seal dives they exhale the air with in their lungs. This aids them with underwater buoyancy and controls the risk of the 'bends'. In the images below, this exhalation process can be seen.

Both images above show Noah, a large adult male Grey Seal Exhaling before making a dive lasting 5-6 mins.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Distinguishing between Grey Seals

Telling Seals apart can be difficult but depending on the individuals can be really easy. Identification can be done by markings on the side of the neck. Finding patterns in the side of the neck can really help with distinguishing between them and also identifying new seals. One particular female grey seal that I have been following called 'Margaret' has distinctive white markings on the side of the head. This is shown in the image below:

This seal can be clearly identified at my seal site due to the white markings on the side of the neck. I have noticed that no other seals in the area have similar markings and this makes the identification of this seal very easy. The image below is of another seal in the area 'Heather', It is easy to see that this is a different seal even though they are both female, adult and found in the same location.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Identifying Male and Female

For this post I want to look at the difference between male Grey Seals and Females. This distinction can be difficult at first but after a while and with some basic information this distinction can be made with relative ease. The first real difference between the sexes is the difference in size. Adult males are larger both in length and width than Females. This can be seen with the image below:

The large adult male in the top right of the image can be seen to be larger than all the other grey seals in the photograph. Hauled out on the beach it is possible to see the size of these animals. Males are mainly dark in colour in comparison to the females which can vary in colour from brown to dark grey. So the size and general colour of the seals can help to identify males and females.

The other main difference between adult male and females are the size and shape of the head. Males are generally larger and have a more structured face and females have a smaller, shorter more rounded head.

Above is Noah, a large adult male grey seal. This can not only be seen by the dark colour of the head but also the shape of the head. A large structured face with eyes sunken into the head. A round nose bending down towards the water at the tip. This is very different to the head of a female grey seal shown below. This individual is called Margaret. Large white markings give this female a very distinctive lighter appearance and therefor, give the impression of a female seal. This is confirmed by the shape of the head. A smaller rounder head with a flat if not slightly upturned nose. The eyes are slightly more positioned on the outside of the head and less bone structure can be seen on the nose of this individual. 

When these seals are young, differentiating between the sexes is very difficult. Young pups and adolescent grey seals are hard to tell apart and greater care must be taken when doing so. 
This information is only a guide and has been gathered up by me over the last few months. I have noticed that generally males are bigger, darker and more angry looking!!

First of Many

This blog has been set up, inorder to show the natural Beauty of Grey Seals and also to investigate into the human impact upon them. My main aim from this blog is to allow me to learn more about these animals and hopefully spark an interest in them for others to get involved and help with the conservation of the species. 

I hope that through my photography I will be able to learn more about this species and identify specific behavioural patterns shown by seals in different areas. The human impact on these seals is a very sensitive subject and the welfare of these seals is always the most important factor when I am studying them. I hope that my photography will portray a very powerful message about North Atlantic Grey Seals in Cornwall. 

Image captured on a popular tourist beach on Cornwall's North Coast