A few hours in Elkhorn Slough

Copyright ©2015 Deborah M. Zajac. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

3 girlfriends and I joined one our favorite Photography Meet-Up groups for a morning in Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing, CA. Our group of 18 spent a couple of hours on a 27 ft Pontoon Boat cruising around the slough observing and photographing wildlife and birds.  It was my second time going out on this boat. Both times were lots of fun. Captain Joe, and Naturalist John Carlo were both very informative about the wildlife and birds that call Elkhorn Slough home.

The Slough seemed quiet compared to other times I’ve birded there. We missed early morning feeding time I think, and there weren’t as many Sea Otters as I’ve seen in the past, but there was still plenty to look at.

Here are some of the birds, and animals I saw while out in the Slough-

Brown Pelican- There were quite a few of these gliding around the slough looking for tasty fish.

Brown Pelican

a Harbor Seal sun bathing:

Harbor Seal

an Elegant Tern in Flight

Elegant Tern

Those Terns are so fast and agile! It was challenging getting a sharp image of them in flight.

A Mom Sea Otter and Nursing pup. This might be tricky to see; Mom’s face is at the back grooming the pup, while the pup nurses with its face near Mom’s feet/flippers.

Mom Sea Otter and Nursing PupI photographed the Mom and Pup for a minute then turned around to see if anything good came along in the meantime, and there was! An old bottle with a lovely lavender/purple patina was floating our way. I called it out and said I wanted it. John Carlo very kindly said he’d get it for me. I asked if he had a net, and he replied, “A net. I don’t need a net. I’ll pluck it out.”  With that Captain Joe maneuvered the boat to within grabbing reach, and John Carlo true to his word, plucked it from the water and presented it to me.  My trip souvenir treasure.

There’s a little shell inside the mouth, and it looks old. John Carlo said the Sea Otters probably found it, or dislodged it while looking for food. It once was clear glass, but has seen the sun because it’s turned purple. Especially at the top.  The only markings the bottle has is a number on the bottom; no other maker’s mark are evident.  I’ll probably never know how old it is, or who made it, but I love it!  Thank you John Carlo!

Treasure from the Slough

A small Sea Otter Raft- They group themselves together, sometimes holding hands, and they tie themselves up in the sea grass, and kelp to keep from drifting out to sea while they’re eating, grooming, and sleeping. When they’re grouped like that they look like a raft. This Raft had less than 20 Sea Otters in it.

Sea Otter Raft

Sea Otter wrapped in Sea Grass

Sea Otter Wrapped in Sea Grass_0561

It was a wonderful morning for me, and a relaxing, lazy one for this yawning Sea Otter…

Yawn!Nikon D300s| AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4| Hand-held| Lexar Professional Digital Film| Developed in Photoshop CS6

More to come…

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Crab Fest!

Copyright © 2015 Deborah M. Zajac  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I picked up a new Point & Shoot camera to take Kayaking since I’m too chicken to take my DSLR with me. I meant to go Kayaking yesterday, but it was windy there, and the water was a bit choppy, so I bailed. Instead I wandered around the slough using the camera getting used to it. I bought the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ200 for it’s 25mm-600mm zoom  (35 mm equivalent),  its Fixed f/2.8 Leica lens, it shoots in RAW, and has  Manual controls.  Here are some of the first images I made with the camera. (Click on the image to see it larger)

Willet Adult: Winter

Willet with Crab -Winter

The Empty Slip

Moss Landing Marina

The Outpost

The Out Post

Clark’s Grebe

Clark's Grebe

The Lookout

The Lookout

It’s different, but with a little more time I’ll get the hang of it.

Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ200| Lexar Professional 600x Speed Digital Film| Hand-held

More to come…

An Otterly great morning on the Slough

Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

I went kayaking for the first time Sunday morning in Elkhorn Slough which is in the Monterey Peninsula in a sleepy little coastal hamlet called Moss Landing here in California.
This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was out here on a Pontoon boat with a Photography group last year.  My friend Dali and I both signed up for the Basics Course at Kayak Connection which is located right on the Slough .The red kayak behind the blue  one was mine for morning. She’s sleek, quick, and her number is KC58. I had the good fortune of having a great instructor who got me through the basics in just 3 hours.

While we were practicing how to go straight, and proper paddle position  I got close to Dali  so I stopped , and thought to pull out my camera for a quick photo of him gliding through the water in his yellow kayak.

After learning how to paddle straight, turn, stop, and go backwards, and learning to quickly steer clear of obstacles with a maneuver called the “J move” it was time to venture further into the slough.  We rowed out toward the mouth of the harbor when two male otters came to play. They were so close to me. One swam under my kayak and started knocking his clam on the underside of my kayak to crack it open. It was so exciting! Just look how close this one was to me.


Our guide Courtland  told us this Otter’s red tail tag meant he’d been released from the Monterey Bay Aquarium for being too familiar with humans. Evidently he’s still quite fond of humans. He showed no fear of us at all. He was swimming right up to our kayaks and looking in, and all around them for food I think. This is what I wanted to experience while kayaking.


It was an exciting day! Dali and I are both stoked and looking forward to getting out on the water again!

Canon Powershot SD750, SanDisk Digital Film

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.” Walt Whitman

A few more photographs from my day at Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing, CA.  The day was overcast, but once in a while the sun would peek out from behind a cloud, and when it did there were humans and animals alike out to soak up its warmth.  Like this Harbor Seal.

This Harbor Seal below has very pretty blue eyes, but I must admit I didn’t see that at first. What caught my attention first were those huge fingers!

Don’t you like way he’s surrounded by the other seals?  I feel like he’s loved and protected here.

This white seal pup was so cute! He watched the boat for sometime. A very curious seal with a wise looking face.

I rented the Nikkor 300mm f4 for this trip. It doesn’t have VR Nikon’s verbage for Vibration Reduction so I kept the shutter speed up all day.

I am very impressed with the performance of this lens. For being on a moving boat, trying to catch the scenes and wildlife as we sailed by it did very well. I like the isolation and colors it gave me, and I didn’t find that it hunted or had trouble locking onto the subject. I didn’t find it too heavy. Well,it is weighty, but not that much heavier than my 80-200mm f2.8, and the tripod collar worked very well on my tripod/ball-head combo. I purchased a universal plate that worked perfectly on the foot.

Renting this lens was a wonderful way for me to try the lens, and get some pretty neat photographs of this trip that I might not have been able to get otherwise. I will rent this lens again, and have started saving for it. I like it that much, and I have birding season coming up! I think this would a fabulous lens to have while at the Snow Goose festival this winter, and in my gear bag.

“There is nothing more musical than a sunset. – the book of Nature. ” Claude Debussy

Copyright © 2010 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

Another photograph from my Elkhorn Slough Meet-Up on the 18th.

At the end of the day myself and two friends found this beach to shoot the sunset. The sun set right here. This was the best light and color of the sunset. I’m so glad we were here in time for this. After the sun set there was no color at all…the day faded into night. With it we headed north for home.

PP- Recovery, vibrance, clarity, resized
Nikon D300s, Nikkor 17-35mm f2.8 @ 17mm, f13, 1/8s, ISO 200, Manual Mode

A Week-end on the Wild Side

A week-end full of wildlife photography that is.

I spent Sat. with a Meet up group out in Moss Landing, CA at Elkhorn Slough. We took a pontoon boat out in the slough and saw oodles of Otters, pups, seals, seal pups, and shore birds. The weather was warm, but overcast throughout most the day.

Here are Mom and pup. Mom trying to relax and the pup was as curious about us as we were about them.

Copyright © 2010 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

These guys eat 25% of their body weight in clams a day! They are very cute.

Sunday morning myself and 2 friends headed back up North to Point Reyes National Seashore’s Tule Elk Reserve to hike out to Tomales Bay Point to photograph the Tule Elk again ,and some coastal scenics. We had rain in the forecast and were hoping for big dramatic clouds and nice moody scenes along the rocky coast line.

It drizzled the whole 2.5 hour drive up. As we headed out on the trail to Tomales Point it was still drizzling, and the sky was gray with no definition in the sky or clouds. Just overcast.

We reached the pond 3 miles out- there was an Alpha Male with about 25 females and 4 calves in his Harem.
Up on the hill was another male calling the females. He had about 5 females which deserted him for the Bigger Tule Elk down by the pond. He came down the hill and we hoped there would be a battle over the Harem.
The Bull on the hill didn’t put up a fight he let his females go. There was a lot of bugle calling and half hearted, and “I mean business ” charges from the Alpha Male which was enough to scare the Bull on the hill away.
He lost all his females to the Older Bull who had about 30 females in his Harem when we left them to continue out to Tomales Point.

The hike out to the point is 4.7 miles. On the way back my legs were tired. I carried with me the D300s, 17-35mm f2.8, and the 300mm f4 along with accessories and filters, lunch, water, tripod, and trail stool. I think my load was 20 pounds. Right now this is my current limit loaded with all this gear.

PP- Vibrance, clarity, a little fill light, some USM, and resized.

Copyright © 2010 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

“Herding the new additions” Copyright © 2010 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

We were about to leave and continue our hike as we thought the action was over. There wouldn’t be a fight and the Alpha was herding the new females into the Harem, and giving them a thorough sniffing and sizing up. Sensing the Alpha was distracted the young bull took advantage and crept around the hill and down into the herd undetected…but only for a few minutes. Once the Alpha caught scent of the other bull, he called and charged! All the females moved out of the way as the Alpha charged the young bull. The youngster ran right by us and stopped just 6 feet away from us! Unfortunately, we had packed up all our gear to make the hike easier. Still,  it was so thrilling to be that close to them!

As we headed down the trail the young bull took off and we didn’t see him until we  were on the way back.

Out at Tomales Point the sky didn’t have the drama or definition we had hoped for in the sky, but the scenery was beautiful none the less.

Copyright © 2010 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

Here at the point where the rain runs off were the most interesting and beautiful gullies, and patterns in the cliff.

We left the Point at 4PM knowing it would take us about 2.5 hours to hike back out. We saw a lot more Tule Elk at the pond. More of the unattached males were on the other side of the pond-away from the Alpha and his Harem. We didn’t stop to take photos but did pause a minute to look. Further up the trail the fog rolled in. I spent the whole day damp. Out of the fog we saw on the trail ahead of us 3 females and then we spied another Harem. We walked cautiously past them. Fortunately they were just as cautious about us and moved off the trail inland a little further.

We made it out to the parking lot in 2 hours 15 minutes. We were in dire need of dinner and I really wanted a pot of hot tea! We dined in Inverness at Priscilla’s Cafe. It was wonderful! I had a crab sandwich, mixed green salad, and mixed berry pie for dessert.

Copyright © 2010 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

After dinner we walked across the street to where the Point Reyes is beached. I took a photos of her a few weeks ago when another friend and I came up. This time a night shot was what we were after. One of my companions had a big LED flash-light he used to light up the boat.

Copyright © 2010 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

Using a technique called light painting he painted the boat, and foreground with light. I set up my cameras for a long exposure. This was a 67 second exposure.

On the way home I saw the Golden Gate bridge with the fog just starting to come in, and the city lights twinkling like jewels through it and wanted to stop to take one last shot before continuing southward home. My friend pulled over at the Marina Headlands where we spent a good half hour shooting the city and the bridge.

Copyright © 2010 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

This was 59 second exposure .  I was happy to see I captured some Moon beams and a star too!

This was a lovely last shot for my week-end on the Wildside. Life is good!

Nikon D300s, Nikkor 300mm f4, Nikkor 17-35mm f2.8, Sundisk Ultra SDHC Digital Film