Ok, first mission: Donna Nook, England, UK.
After checking on Google, Donna Nook appeared to be a RAF bombing range… Hmmm, what a funny choice for a Wild Wonders mission to photograph soldiers at a military camp. But since Obama has been elected and the media have portrayed him as the perfect new president of the world… maybe Soldierus militaricus is a freshly new threatened species on the IUCN red list and WWE wants to record the last specimen…” I realized my mistake when I checked the “Must Do shot list” including : fights, close up and… mating!?! I was about to quit the project when Florian Moellers called me to say “Noooo, not those big fat guys! THOOOSE big fat guys : the SEALS!!!”. OOOOOOK! Of course, the seals!
My mistake… I am still onboard and I had 2 weekends to do the job as the area is only permitted for photography Saturdays and Sundays.
It’s funny how a VERY quiet place like Donna Nook can change in a matter of minutes: Saturday morning 6:30 am the parking lot, empty a few minutes ago is now full of cars and the sound of doors and boots break the silence of the night. I am impressed by the adaptability of some photographers, to blend in this military based area, they’ve come dressed up from head to toe on camouflage gear… an army of photographers.
We are waiting for the low tide. After half an hour we are all walking towards the sand bank (about a mile ahead) where the seals are waiting to be photographed.
Donna Nook is a very unusual place and I understand why so many photographers are coming here. First, every year the cows come to give birth in the dunes (last year the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust counted 1200 pups making the location the premier breeding spot in the UK) and secondly the seals here are very tame. One day a bull came to inspect my gear, sniffing my tripod, he was only few feet away. Having said that, the number of people on the beach can easily disturb the peace.
While most people were careful, some didn’t seem to realize the panic they were causing while walking near the animals. That’s a question I often ask myself: “Do wildlife photographers protect more than we disturb?… pollute to reach wild places more than helping cleaning up?”
The weekend ending, I decided to stay to wait for the next weekend to take some pictures of the breeding colony. The cows don’t give birth off shore, they stay in land and you can visit that colony during the week. To avoid disturbance the Wildlife Trust erected a barrier so you can’t hang around like on the sand bank. During those days I hardly used my long lenses but I enjoyed playing with different flashlights.
The last weekend was fairly tiring, the temperature dropped and the wind was blowing hard, the sand would penetrate my cloths and my equipment was seriously damaged. As if that weather was not dramatic enough, the snow then came along! It was hard to focus and the seals were not very active but when the light came through (only for a few minutes) the scenery was magical…
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.