Saturday, March 12, 2011

Photographing Harbor seals in the Kenai Fjords.

Another fun time in Alaska was taking a boat from Seward into the Kenai Peninsula. There were many glaciers in the area so it was common to see ice floating on the water. The Harbor seals take advantage of the floating bergs for a place to rest, protected from sharks and Orcas.

Harbor seals are the most widely distributed of all pinnipeds (walruses, eared seals, and true seals). In fact they are often referred to as common seals. Adult males reach a length of around 6 feet and will typically weigh just under 300 pounds. Females give birth to a single pup which she will raise without the help of the male. The pups are able to swim soon after they are born and grow quickly thanks to the mothers rich milk.

Harbor seals-4.jpg

Harbor seals are fish eaters and are not too specific as to what species they will feed on. They can dive for over ten minutes and have been known to reach depths of about 1500 feet. Most dives are shorter and may only reach a depth of around 60 feet. 

Harbor seals-1.jpg

As you can see from these photos, they can vary in color from dark brown to a tan and are covered with spot patterns that can be used to identify individuals. Females can live for up to 35 years while the males usually die before they reach 25. Currently there numbers are estimated at around 6 million world wide. As you can see, they are not in any trouble in most areas.

We had a small chartered boat so we were able to move around freely. This allowed me to have a choice between a light or medium background. Depending on whether the water was reflecting the blue sky or a white cloud. The water was very calm on this particular day, allowing me to use a tripod from the boat. I was always careful to ask the captain to shut down the engine for each exposure as the vibration would have created unsharp images.

Harbor seals-5.jpg

Let me know what you think.


  1. Very cool! I'd love to make it to Alaska some day.

  2. Yea. I need to get back there. I would like to spend more time with bears.