Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sable Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Sable Island is a 50km long, 1.5 km wide sand bar sitting in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean, about 300km ESE of Halifax. I have spent 8 winter seasons out there (and one late summer) studying the seal population that breeds on the island between mid-December and early-February. About 300 wild horses also live on the island and have been there since the 1700's. Currently, only a few people live on the island, almost all of which are associated with the Canadian weather station (about 3-4 people). I have taken many many photographs from Sable, most of which rest on 35mm slides. I have, however, in the past few years taken a few digital photos. Here are a selection of those.

Sable Island horses feeding on washed up marram grass

Here are two horses feeding on marram grass that has been washed up by the surf. This photo was a difficult take because the two horses almost merge into one another. I used several tools (Levels, Curves, Hue, Shadows) to adjust the contrast and colour to separate the two horses and bring some colour out in the sea and sand.

Grey seals mating in surf

This is what I spent much of my time looking for on Sable Island during my studies; seals mating. This particular shot (taken with wet feet if I recall) shows a male that has effectively stopped a female escaping to sea and is mating with her in the surf. It's an alternative mating tactic to defending a female for a long period of time and then mating. Although males are successful in siring offspring using this tactic, the success rate is much lower to that achieved by defending females for an extended period. This tactic is also thought to involve forced copulation, i.e. rape, but I am not entirely confident with that thought.

Male grey seal in storm

This shot was taken during a storm. Shooting photos on Sable can be tricky because of the sand blowinig around. But I have decided to shoot in as many conditions as I can since this is when you can create very dramatic photos. The direction of the surf blowing with the wind is the same direction that the seal is pointed in, creating a little symmetry in the photo.

Sable Island horses grazing on marram grass

During the winter months the horses rely on the marram grass for food. This picture shows two horses feeding on the grass. The east end of Sable disappears into the distance. Along the beach you can see the seal colony. I 'warmed' this photo up using hue/saturation. I also used the shadow/highlights and curves to bring more detail outin the horses.

Sunset over freshwater ponds

At the west end of the island there are several freshwater ponds; a grace for the horses that inhabit that part of the island. At the east end of the island, there areno such ponds and the horses have to dig holes to get water.

Grey seal on Sable Island

This is a photo with a grey seal male in the foreground and several in the background. I love this photo because of the colours; they are so clear and bright. To bring the whiteness of the snow out I followed a suggestion by Ivan; I used Levels, blending to Screen, and a gradient mask that brightened the snow at the bottom of the image and left the sky untouched.


Ivan said...


Great pictures - can't wait to see the many you bring back from your impending trip to Sable. Fingers crossed for some excellent ones!

My favourite is the sun over the freshwater ponds. The way it is breaking through the stormy sky, and the light, shade and texture of the snow and grass is wonderful, and perfectly captured in landscape format orientation. There's plenty of foreground interest (grass poking through snow), midground (water, reflection) and background (dunes, peaks, sky) to make the whole thing very interesting and dramatic. Brilliant pic - I'd love a copy of the higher res version to hang in our house. You had some other ones too, from that time you came over, that I loved.

Do you have any kind of internet connection when on Sable (satellite or something) to post real-time blogs from your adventure out there?


Critical Light said...

Hi Ivan,

I head out to Sable on Tuesday (weather permitting of course; usually isn't) and return on 27th Jan. Unfortuntately, our camp does not have an internet connection. The other camp (25km away) does but it's incredibly slow. This time though I would like to keep a diary and make a few notes about some of the images I capture and why. I hope to use that text for the pictures I sell but I can also blog them too. I am quite excited about the whole photography thing because during those 6 weeks I will be using my camera everyday, in between the work I have to do of course.

I was hoping to shoot some photos around the lakes here but time seems to be running out fast. I may have an opportunity on Sunday because Sue leaves for a conference on Sunday morning. Will see I guess.


Ivan said...

Make sure you have plenty of memory space on your laptop and your 1GB card! Don't forget your transfer cables and your battery charger either...would be a shame to get there and forget that lot..