June 8th is World Oceans Day – a chance to celebrate the bodies of water that make up 70% of our planet and provide food, recreation and place to rejuvenate the spirit. As home to an estimated 230,000 marine species, our oceans are a vast wilderness with ecosystems critically linked with our own. Unfortunately many of the earth’s inhabitants never see or experience our oceans, yet our impact through pollution and over-fishing has taken its toll.
Organizations such as the The Ocean Project provide a great opportunity to get directly involved in protecting the future of our oceans through personal and community involvement. Working with zoos, aquariums, and conservation groups, they sponsor beach cleanups, educational programs, art contests, film festivals, sustainable seafood events, and other activities that help to raise consciousness of how our lives depend on the oceans and what we can do to keep them healthy long into the future.
Madame Pele has re-awakened on the Big Island of Hawaii this past year sending a river of lava flowing into the sea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. For more than a quarter century the goddess of fire has let her temperament be known on this Pacific island creating one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and once again she is restless.
This image made in the pre-dawn hour shows the raw force of fire and water combining to form new land. It is an incredible spectacle to witness and one of the most challenging subjects I have ever photographed. In years past, walking across miles of a’a lava fields (the sharp brittle variety) in the dark and carefully setting up a tripod on a newly formed shelf above the sea was the only option. But now an ocean view provides a new perspective to this ever-changing scene.
In stark contrast to shooting the lush forests and beautiful beaches on the windward side of this same island, this is a land of raw earth and fire – and beauty of a different kind. The experience is intoxicating, and once you’ve caught your first glimpse of Pele’s glow the desire to return again and again is hard to resist.
Rocky coastline at Soberanes Point, Garrapata State Park, Big Sur, California (click for large view)
The Big Sur coast is one of those truly special locations that never fails to impress. The rocky shoreline and misty mountains are instantly recognizable the world over, yet her mood is constantly changing throughout the seasons providing a fresh perspective with each new visit.
From the early morning fog to the golden sunsets, this meeting of land and sea is in a constant state of flux. And as you make your way along that magical ribbon known as Highway 1, each turn reveals a slightly different scene that somehow seems more dramatic than the last.
For photographers, this perpetual change is ideal and the challenge of making fresh images (often faced in many other landmarks) is all but removed. The Big Sur coast is also part of the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary and its rich sea life, including Elephant Seals, otters. and migrating gray whales, provides yet another opportunity for great imagery.
Juvenile elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, San Simeon, California
The Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris), or sea elephant, ranges from the Pacific coastal waters of Canada to the tip of Baja, Mexico. It is the largest of the fin-footed mammals and with males typically weighing up to 6000 lbs it exceeds the walrus in size. Though they were hunted to the brink of extinction toward the end of the nineteenth century, their numbers have steadily increased in recent years due to protection from both the US and Mexican governments.
Elephant seals feed on fish and squid or other cephalopods and spend upwards of 80 percent of their lives in the ocean. They can hold their breath for nearly two hours and dive as deep as 2,000 feet in search of food. During the three month breeding season, bulls fight to establish territories along beaches and to acquire harems of up to 40 cows.
These juveniles are part of a large rookery at one of several pocket beaches near San Simeon on the Central California coast. As part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary this colony has grown exponentially since the early 1990s, and a well-designed series of boardwalks, interpretive signs and docents offer a unique wildlife experience for anyone visiting the area.