Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius. Edward O. Wilson
It’s not easy to pack a car with suitcases for a night away, with all the camera gear alongside it, but after a little shuffling Sylvie, Jane and I set off to Lincolnshire. We had booked a workshop with the Olympus wildlife ambassador Tesni Ward and were due to meet her bright and early the following morning. When we finally arrived we found the only pub in the village was quite packed with people. They all seemed to be sharing pictures of seals on their phones. Unfortunately the tomato soup wasn’t homemade and the bread was covered in margarine but we coped stoically as usual!
We set off to Donna Nook to get our bearings and to check out what lenses we may need. Donna Nook is one of the safest places for seals to come ashore in the UK as there is no inundation of waves to drown the pups. It is totally non-commercialised. There is no café, just a van that sells delicious sausage and bacon baps. The beach is fenced off but that doesn’t stop the curious pups from peering through and watching everyone. There were moments when I wasn’t sure who was watching whom! Of course they are totally adorable with their huge watery eyes. Unfortunately the grey skies and lack of good light, prevented us getting the kind of shots we all wanted. Just watching their interactions though was quite fun enough!
We met Tesni in the car park early the following morning and began the day with some tuition. We all love the Olympus and its versatility however its customisable buttons can be frustrating especially when you don’t know what you are doing! It was great to get some really useful tuition and each one of us had questions and queries that Tesni answered succinctly. We set up back button focus and some good settings for wildlife photography and then saved them on the custom menu.
Our monopods came in very useful as did our trusty 300mm lenses. As we began to take pictures there were moments when there was just so much going on it was difficult to know which lens to use or where to look. There were redshanks foraging, starlings fighting and seals either attacking each other or coupling. There was certainly a lot of seal porn! The pups seemed amused by us and very laid back. They were so cute and the temptation to reach out and pat one was immense, however we all managed to resist.
After enjoying our sausage and onion baps we set off to a much wilder place. I’m not sure I could find the car park again never mind the seals! The walk took us through boggy ground and it was slippery and on occasion quite strenuous through the longer grass. It got windy and although it was a slightly brighter day, the sun still refused to shine. As we reached the beach we saw a few seals lying around, totally undeterred by our presence. Holding the camera, a monopod and trying to lay a groundsheet down in the increasing wind, requires a co-ordination I don’t possess. I got covered in sand as did the camera. My raincover blew away just as I sat down and Tesni ran to grab it. Sylvie did a flying sit with her legs akimbo and I could hear Jane quietly cursing as she struggled with her backpack, ground sheet and monopod. The seals watched us without moving. I imagined they were thinking how mad we all were! At one point a huge bull began to lumber towards us and I got ready to beat a hasty retreat. Well, ‘hasty’ might be exaggerating slightly as haste and camera gear are not words you would normally use together! Tesni told the old bull to go away and obligingly he did. It was at this point we noticed a huge and rather ugly black aircraft. It began circling quite close to us. Part of the beach is used by the MoD for target practice but they are not supposed to shoot whilst the seals are ashore. Obviously the pilot hadn’t been told, as without warning, firing began. We could see the sand flying up in the distance as the ammunition hit it. It was at that point I began to worry whether we would become a ‘fun’ target! Eventually, the arrival of a golden sunset distracted me from my concerns, as we all tried to photograph a seal in the magical ringed light.
Tesni made the day great fun, informative and so rewarding. We all came away with photographs we had set out to get and having learned a lot about the wonderful Olympus and its versatility. We had lots of laughs and some marvellous photographic moments. We will definitely be booking another workshop with her in March next year.