Awe-Inspiring Encounters: Photographing Seals
Awe-Inspiring Encounters: Photographing Seals

Awe-Inspiring Encounters: Photographing Seals

Introduction to Photographing Seals on the North Coast of Scotland

Join me on my captivating journey as I delve into the enchanting world of photographing seals on the rainy North Coast of Scotland. Equipped with my trusty Canon 5DSR camera and a powerful 600mm Sigma lens, I set out to capture the mesmerising beauty of these graceful creatures in their natural habitat. Brace yourself for a tale of perseverance, patience, and the vital importance of preserving the well-being of these magnificent seals. So, grab your raincoat and let’s embark on this remarkable wildlife adventure together.

Setting the Scene

As I ventured to the North Coast of Scotland as part of a planned NC500 road trip, the day was wet, cold and misty, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highland landscape. The rocky cliffs loomed over the crashing waves, and the scent of sea salt filled the air. It wasn’t the perfect backdrop for something I’d been planning for a few years in a photography adventure. I was actually looking to photograph Puffins! perhaps that’s another blog post for another day.

The rain came down in a steady drizzle, adding to the mystical quality to the surroundings. It was a chance meeting with another photographer who hastily and excitedly pointed out that he could see 2 Otters below in a small cove, in his broken Scandinavian accent. I hastily put the car into 4 wheel drive and headed down wondering if I could turn the vehicle around at the bottom to get back up!

I scanned the water looking for Otters but to no avail. As I stood in the rain, and by now my Scandinavian friend had joined me excitedly pointing toward an outcrop of rocks, pointing and saying “Otters, Otters” – I lifted my hefty camera and 600mm lens and aimed it in the general direction he was pointing in only to discover the Otters were not Otters at all! I giggled to myself and in my best English accent, politely corrected him. We both laughed.

Despite the weather, I was determined to capture the enchanting beauty of the local seals in their natural habitat. Armed with my trusty Canon 5DS R camera and a 600mm Sigma lens, I eagerly set out across the slippery rocks to find the perfect vantage point for photographing seals.

photographing seals
photographing seals

The North Coast of Scotland is renowned for its diverse wildlife, and the seals are a highlight of the region. Their sleek bodies and curious eyes make for captivating subjects. With their natural habitat consisting of rocky shores and secluded coves, it was a challenge to find the ideal location to observe them undisturbed.

The rain seemed to intensify as I scoured the coastline for the perfect spot. The mist hung low over the cliffs, giving the landscape an ethereal quality. I knew that the wet weather might make photography more challenging, but it also presented a unique opportunity to capture the seals in their natural element.

With each cautious step, I could feel the excitement building within me. The North Coast of Scotland is known for its vibrant seal colonies, and I hoped to capture their grace and beauty through my lens. As I carefully made my way along the shoreline, I couldn’t help but marvel at the raw power and untamed majesty of the landscape.

The raindrops danced on the surface of the sea, creating a rhythmic melody that seemed to harmonise with the distant calls of seabirds. Despite the weather, the North Coast of Scotland was a photographer’s paradise. The misty backdrop and moody atmosphere added a layer of mystery to the already captivating scenery.

Little did I know that this wet day would offer me a front-row seat to witness the seals in all their splendor. With my equipment at the ready, I eagerly awaited the moment when I would be able to capture the magic of these creatures through my lens.

Stay tuned as I delve into the importance of keeping a respectful distance and protecting these remarkable creatures. In the next section, I’ll explore why maintaining a safe distance is vital for their well-being and how it contributes to the preservation of these magnificent animals.

The Importance of Keeping Distance

As I ventured across those slippery rocks, closer to the seals, their presence became more apparent. The colony for the most part were huddled together on a rocky outcrop, their sleek bodies glistened in the rain. The angle to which I chose to sit and observe didn’t offer much in the way of a complete Seal Colony photograph and that together with the colours, meant that they were very well blending in with the rocks. However, It was a sight to behold, but I knew that maintaining a respectful distance was crucial for both their well-being and my own.

Seals, particularly the Common Seal (Harbour seal), as you see in this blog, are found along the North Coast of Scotland, are known for their shy and sensitive nature. Approaching them too closely or causing them distress can have serious consequences for their health and survival. I understood the significance of respecting their space and observing them from a distance. After all, this was the very purpose of buying this particular lens!

photographing seals

These magnificent creatures rely on undisturbed coastal habitats for breeding, resting, and nursing their young. Getting too close can disrupt their natural behaviour, cause stress, and even separate mothers from their pups. It was imperative that I balanced my desire to capture stunning photographs with the responsibility to protect their fragile ecosystem.

By keeping a safe distance, I could still observe their playful interactions, the way they gracefully navigate the rocky terrain, and their endearing moments of rest. Admiring them from afar allowed me to witness their true nature without intruding upon their world.

It is not only a matter of ethical responsibility but also a legal obligation. In the UK, seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act, making it illegal to disturb, harass, or harm them in any way. This legislation serves as a reminder of the need to preserve and protect these remarkable creatures.

As wildlife enthusiasts and photographers, it is our duty to be ambassadors for the preservation of our natural heritage. By educating ourselves and others about the importance of keeping distance, we can ensure that future generations have the privilege of experiencing the wonder of seals in their natural habitat.

In the next section, I will share the challenges and rewards of capturing nature’s beauty through the lens of my camera. Join me as I explore the art of wildlife photography and the unique opportunities that arise even on the rainiest of days.

Capturing Nature’s Beauty

Finding the perfect spot to photograph the seals was no easy task, especially on a wet and misty day. But armed with my Canon 5DSR (Old but bullet proof!) camera and the powerful 600mm Sigma lens, I was determined to capture the essence of their captivating beauty.

The rain seemed relentless, creating a challenging environment for photography. However, I trusted in the capabilities of my equipment to deliver exceptional results even in adverse conditions. The Canon 5DSR, known for its high-resolution sensor, and the 600mm Sigma lens, renowned for its remarkable reach, were the perfect companions for this wildlife photography expedition.

As I adjusted the settings on my camera to accommodate the dim lighting (Auto ISO, I’d worry about the Noise later an post production) and steady drizzle, I sought out a vantage point that provided both visibility and a safe distance from the seals. The rocky shoreline offered a strategic location, allowing me to observe their natural behavior while minimising any potential disturbance.

photographing seals

With my camera, I eagerly awaited the perfect moments to capture. The seals gracefully navigated the rugged terrain, their movements reflecting both power and elegance. I clicked the shutter, freezing these fleeting instances of beauty into timeless images.

The raindrops, though an obstacle for many, added an ethereal touch to the photographs. They shimmered in the frame, creating a dynamic and moody atmosphere that enhanced the overall aesthetic. The drizzle acted as nature’s own special effect, imbuing each image with a sense of raw authenticity.

Through the lens, I was able to focus on intricate details—the sparkle in their eyes, the gentle curve of their bodies, and the unique patterns on their sleek fur. Each shot told a story, capturing the essence of these incredible creatures and their profound connection to the sea.

photographing seals

The Canon 5DSR and 600mm Sigma lens proved to be a formidable combination, allowing me to zoom in and capture even the subtlest nuances of their behaviour. The precision and clarity of the images surpassed my expectations, rendering the seals with breathtaking detail.

In the midst of the rain and mist, I found myself completely immersed in the art of wildlife photography. Each shot required patience, skill, and an unwavering respect for the subjects. The seals, unperturbed by my presence at a safe distance, carried on with their natural routines, giving me the opportunity to document their lives in a way that conveyed both their vulnerability and their strength.

As I reflect on that wet day on the North Coast of Scotland, I am grateful for the remarkable capabilities of my equipment, allowing me to capture the true essence of these magnificent seals. In the next section, I’ll explore the invaluable lessons I learned in patience and the rewarding experiences that emerged amidst the rain-soaked journey. Stay tuned for the power of patience in wildlife photography.

A Lesson in Patience

Patience is an essential virtue when it comes to wildlife photography, and my time spent photographing seals on the North Coast of Scotland was a true testament to this. As I positioned myself at a safe distance, I quickly realised that capturing the perfect shot required not only technical skill but also a keen sense of observation and an abundance of patience.

With the rain continuing to drizzle around me, I settled into a comfortable spot and prepared to wait. The seals, aware of my presence and that of my Scandinavian friend who was located about 100ft to my left, cast curious glances in our direction before resuming their activities. It was a delicate dance between stillness and anticipation, as I aimed to capture their natural behaviors without disrupting their rhythm.

Time seemed to pass by, but I remained steadfast. The intermittent clicks of my camera provided a rhythm of their own, a testament to my unwavering determination to seize those decisive moments. I observed the seals as they played in the water, basked on the rocks, and interacted with one another.

photographing seals

During the moments of waiting, I had the opportunity to truly connect with nature. The sound of crashing waves, the scent of salt in the air, and the gentle raindrops on my face all added to the immersive experience. It was as if time stood still, and I became a part of the seals’ world, patiently observing and appreciating their existence.

The rain, once perceived as an obstacle, became an integral part of the narrative I sought to capture. The droplets glistened on the seals’ coats, highlighting their innate beauty and resilience. I reveled in the challenge of capturing the perfect composition, using the rain-soaked surroundings to create a sense of atmosphere and emotion in each photograph.

As time progressed, so did my understanding of the seals’ behaviours. I noticed subtle nuances in their movements, their interactions, and their expressions. The patience I had exercised allowed me to witness unique moments that would have been otherwise missed.

It is in these moments that the true artistry of wildlife photography unfolds. It is not simply about capturing a pretty picture but rather about telling a story, conveying the essence of the subject, and evoking emotions in the viewer. Patience serves as the bridge between the photographer and the subject, allowing for a deep connection and a more profound portrayal.

In the end, the rewards were abundant. The images I captured reflected the tranquility, beauty, and raw power of the seals. They became a testament to the power of patience and the artistry of capturing nature’s wonders. Each photograph told a story—a story of resilience, grace, and the delicate balance of life in the wild.

As I packed up my equipment and bid farewell to the seals, I carried with me not only a collection of stunning images but also a profound appreciation for the lessons learned. Patience, observation, and respect are not only essential to wildlife photography but also to our relationship with the natural world.

In the final section, I’ll explore the importance of protecting these incredible creatures and the vital role each of us plays in their conservation. Join me as I delve into the critical efforts to safeguard the well-being of the seals and their habitat.

Protecting the Seals

photographing seals

The seals that grace the North Coast of Scotland are not only captivating creatures but also vulnerable inhabitants of our precious ecosystem. As I immersed myself in the world of seal photography, I became acutely aware of the importance of protecting these remarkable animals and the urgent need for conservation efforts.

Seals face numerous threats in their natural habitat, and it is our responsibility to ensure their survival for future generations to appreciate. Habitat destruction, pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, and disturbance caused by human activities all pose significant challenges to their well-being.

Conservation organisations (such as the wildlife trust) and initiatives play a crucial role in safeguarding the seals and their environment. They work tirelessly to raise awareness, conduct research, and implement measures to protect these magnificent creatures. By supporting these organisations, we can actively contribute to their valuable conservation efforts.

One of the most fundamental ways we can protect seals is by respecting their space and maintaining a safe distance. It is essential to remember that we are visitors in their realm and should minimise our impact. Observing seals from a distance allows them to engage in their natural behaviours without stress or disruption.

Additionally, we must remain vigilant about the proper disposal of waste and pollutants to prevent contamination of their habitats. Simple actions such as reducing plastic consumption, properly disposing of fishing gear, and participating in coastal cleanup initiatives can make a significant difference in protecting marine life.

Education is another powerful tool in seal conservation. By raising awareness about the importance of seals in the ecosystem and the threats they face, we can inspire others to take action. Whether through sharing our experiences, supporting educational programs, or advocating for stricter regulations, we can foster a greater understanding and appreciation for these incredible creatures.

Legislation and regulations are crucial in ensuring the long-term protection of seals. Governments, wildlife agencies, and local authorities must enforce laws that prohibit harassment, disturbance, or harm to seals. By holding individuals accountable for their actions and establishing protected areas, we can create safe havens for these animals to thrive.

As I reflect on my experience photographing seals on that wet day, I am reminded of the profound connection we share with the natural world. It is a connection that calls upon us to be stewards of the Earth, to protect and preserve the fragile balance of ecosystems and the magnificent creatures that call them home.


In conclusion, let us cherish the awe-inspiring moments we capture through our lenses, while also recognising our responsibility to safeguard the well-being of seals and other wildlife. Together, we can create a brighter future, where the seals of the North Coast of Scotland continue to thrive, captivating hearts and minds for generations to come. See also – BBC Wildlife magazine

Awe-Inspiring Encounters: Photographing Seals



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