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I am a junior EPZ member and am looking to visit Donna Nook in the next few weeks to photograph some seals, without getting a bomb droppoed on me!!.
I will be going with a responsible adult (well my dad!!) and any info or advice people have would be very welcome. It will take us about 3 hours to get there so I need to make the most of the day.
Thanks for any comments
PS if this is in the wrong place please feel free to relocate it
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Check this thread here - started this very day...
From my limited experience I can give some basic suggestions and hopefully someone else will add some more useful thoughts later. Make sure you wrap up warm, people have almost got frost bit from the icy cold winds - even in November. And if you intend going onto the sand wear good waterproof boots or wellies as it can get very muddy.
Some of the best shots of the seals or taken from a low viewpoint so wearing waterproof clothing that you don't mind getting muddy is also a suggestion. If you park and walk over the dunes the first area you see is the public strip where you can get authorised close ups of the seals and here you only need a lens in the 100mm to 300mm range. The ones close to the fence can be taken even with a lens wider.
Shoot from a low point - in between the fence to get more impact in your shots.
If you walk to the end of this fenced off stretch you can walk onto the beach and round the back of the breading area. It's here where most of the epz crowd head. The breeding area from the back isn't fenced off but there are markers requesting that you do not cross into this area. Respect that by keeping an eye on the posts. Many seals can be found on the sand between the sea and the breading area. This is where some of the best shots have been taken. Take care the seals can be protective and sometime look quite viscous, especially if protecting their pups. It's best to keep a good distance and here the longer lenses are better - 300mm and above.
If you walk out to the tide line you may find seals in the sea who are playing and although we haven't had many shots of this nature it's possible at the right time and in right conditions to get some very good photographs.
I'm not sure of the safety aspects, perhaps someone else can add details if there are any tide problems or quick sand.
A couple more points to add to the above.
1) Learn as much as you can about the animals themselves before your trip. Learn to recognize when an animal is relaxed and more importantly learn to recognize when a seal may be distressed from your presence.
By understanding these two fundamental points you should be able to carefully approach the seals in a non-threatening manner and photograph relaxed and natural behaviour whilst causing the animals no disturbance.
2) In case the weather's bad or turns that way throughout the day, make sure your camera and lens are well protected. Wrapping them with freezer bags, held in place with tape or elastic bands, will go along way to prevent damage from sand. It can take just a very small amount of sand to wreck a camera and that's something that wouldn't be covered by a warranty, so better to be safe than sorry.
There's an excellent article HERE about the seals and Donna Nook.
Almost got frost bite, has Will got the feeling back yet? Not joking and he was wearing top quality Seal-Skinz gloves, so definitely an environment to be respected. We did go on a particularly bad weekend as there were snow blizzards!
I would also say in addition to Justin don't get between a pup and the mother. You can cause the mother to abandon the pup if pushed too far apart.
Keep a watchful eye on the conditions. The weather was so poor when I tried to make my way back to the car-park that I could hardly see where I was going and was thankful for a group to follow that were also heading back. You could not actually see the main towers on the beach due to the blizzard that was blowing.
If it is cold and you are feeling it then head back to the car park and remember no photo is worth risking your health (or that of your subject) for.
The advice back from all three of us makes this place sound really scary. It's only bad when the weather's bad. I went on the same day as Cheryl, but didn't even venture on to the sand as I had my kids with me and they were suffering even as soon as they got out of the car. The two other times I've been the weather was fine and provided great opportunities.
Not scary so much as a place to be respected when conditions are less than perfect. Easy to lose track of others around you, though I am sure Bridie's dad will keep a watchful eye.
When we went two years ago,it felt like the coldest place on earth
Especially on the Sunday morning,just after daybreak
We lasted an hour
Hello again everyone,
Thanks for taking the time to reply. It sounds as though hot flasks and woolly hats are required. Ive got a 100-400 & 300 & 1.4TC so hope I would be OK with that.
Is there a car park and signs?, and do I need to go at weekends to avoid the bombs?.
Quote: Not scary so much as a place to be respected when conditions are less than perfect.
The advise from Cheryl should be heeded at all times when in unfamiliar locations
due to wind conditions out on the bank it's not advisable to be changing lenses due to the sand that gets blown around good example
My choice of lens would be your 300 without converter as you can get close enough for good shots with that lens
Weekends are the best times to go as you can get down to the sandbank at the water's edge...just check that the flag near the carpark isn't flying,if it is then they will possibly restrict you due to bombing practice.
Watch the tide if you get to the water's edge,it comes in pretty fast behind you & there is a chance you may get stranded..ok if the weather is good but if it's really bad (as it was last year on that weekend ) you will have to wait for the tide to turn to get back.
Some good advice from others here too.
i will be going this year,, as i only live a reasonably short distance away.... i will be using my 70 - 300 sigma, as i feel that i should be able to get a good variety of shots with this, and i wont have to change my lens for the day....
freezer bags and duck tape will be my friend for the day too,
i might even see some others there too.
Weekends however are very busy. I went last year from Friday to Monday and experienced no problems going where I wanted to go.
Wrap up warm and be sensible in terms of getting too near the seals, they can move if the want to...
Lots of people make too much of wrapping cameras up in bags etc but I dropped a body and a 70-200 in a load of sand last year and it was just fine so in reality you don't need to worry - kit is a lot tougher than people give it credit for. Plus too many precautions will just get in the way of picture taking. Also, I saw a lot of people there on tripods last year - don't bother! A monopod if you are using a big lens like a 500 f4 is ample. The best shots of the seals are when they are swiimming in the surf or fighting on the beach and if you are tied to a tripod you will miss these!
Got a report from someone who went on monday, to say there are only about 15 seals there right now, there are more people than seals as the kids are on holiday.
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