During my January 2015 trip to the California Central Coast,
I went on a photo outing to Jalama Beach,
about 10 miles south (as the seagull flies) of Lompoc. Near the mouth of Jalama Creek — where there used to be a Chumash
village — my wife spotted some sort of large, dark creature in the distance.
We didn’t know it at the time, but sitting there on the beach was a female California sea lion.
Even though we knew nothing about them, still, this animal seemed to be acting strangely. She kept looking up into the sky, as if she were trying to spot an airplane! Weird!
We kept inching closer and close, until we were about a dozen yards, or maybe less, from the sea lion. At one point my thirteen-year-old daughter Olivia laid down in the sand to take some pictures herself.
It wasn’t until I started processing these photos last week — a month after I had taken them — that I realized, to my shock and dismay, that this sea lion had some fishing line, or something similar, wrapped tightly around her head! In photo after photo I could clearly see that the fishing line was gouging into her fur and even her skin.
It may seem like an emotional overreaction, but I had a hard time processing these photos. Maybe I am reading too much into them, but to me she looks obviously in distress. Now it makes total sense why she was alone on the beach, and why she kept looking up into the sky. By tilting her head up, she was trying to relieve the pain of the raw flesh under her chin. Was she perhaps seeking the aid of humans for her suffering?
Out of the 85 photos I took at Jalama Beach, 37 made it into this album — including one picture by Olivia.
A full 31 of those images are of the sea lion! It may seen like an excessive focus on a single subject, but I got so many good shots of the sea lion, in so many different poses, that having this large number of photos of her is merely a tribute to her beauty — and her suffering.
Because the photos in this album look good in color as well, all 37 original color images can be viewed in the companion Jalama Beach 2015