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Playful Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove

Yesterday morning, my photo club went to La Jolla Cove with the primary idea to photograph birds*, but after a while I found that I had the most fun watching and photographing the California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) which were, for a change, not lounging lazily on the rocks making funny sounds, but actually in the water!

It was overcast and there was a constant light rain, but we had some nice waves coming in. It certainly looked like the sea lions, floating in the water in groups that are called rafts, had a lot of fun with the waves: upon a wave breaking they would dive under it, then be seen swimming inside of the wave, and finally “eject” themselves out of the water behind the wave. Others would dive or jump into a breaking wave from its crest, a little bit like a body surfer.

Photographing this required a lot of “spray and pray” since it was hard to predict how the sea lions would react to a wave and where that would occur. I got lucky with one photo at 500mm focal length, but except for the feature photo, the ones below were made in the range of 200-300mm, simply because it was easier to observe and react to the situation that way. All of the photos are more or less heavily cropped afterwards. :)

*) blog post: Birds of La Jolla from three years ago; at this time of the year, we see Brown Pelicans in their breeding plumage there and the beautiful Brandt’s Cormorants, the latter showing their various courtship displays, landing at the cliffs with nesting materials, or already sitting on their nests and guarding the eggs against herons and seagulls. All this is easily visible and very accessible to photographers from coastal trails and sidewalks.

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10 thoughts on “Playful Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove”

  1. Great shots! You really captured the playfulness of the sea lions there. We were just there in December but didn’t see action like this! :)

  2. Oh, that does look like fun! I’ve only seen them lying on rafts…(in OR) but I love it when one lies there seemingly fast asleep then its snout falls into the water and it blows bubbles. Not as exciting as this though. It’s cool to see them under the water and I love the 6th one.
    Joe says, “Cool shots!”


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