Marine Wildlife Photography – Topside

By Michael Zeigler and Todd Winner


Not only are the oil rigs of Southern California exciting to explore underwater, they are also a great place to photograph wildlife on the surface. Nikon D810, 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 lens, with a Peak Design hand strap.

It is not everyday that you will find us shooting marine wildlife on the surface without having been diving first. On this rare day we decided to visit the Long Beach breakwall and one of the nearshore oil rigs, Platform Esther. The diving forecast was less than desirable, but we decided to make the most of the day and take advantage of the calm, glassy conditions.

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Sea lion sunning itself on this cloudy day. Canon 5D Mark III, EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II and Peak Design hand strap.

Even though the sun wasn’t willing to play with us this day, we were able to utilize the reflections from the lights under oil platform Esther.

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We noticed these interesting reflections while shooting the sunning Sea lion. The orange is from the many work lights located on the oil rig.


The sea lions were extra playful, putting on a show for us and testing the speed of our autofocus systems!

After watching the sea lion action for a while, we decided to check out the marine life near the breakwall.

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Cute Harbor seal resting on the Long Beach breakwall.



Sea lions greet each other near the entrance to Alamitos Bay in Long Beach.



Michael ZeiglerMichael Zeigler is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video, as well as an AAUS Scientific Diver. More of Michael’s underwater photography can be seen at For the latest information on workshops and trips, sign up for our newsletter.

Todd WinnerTodd Winner is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video and has over 20 years of experience in underwater still and broadcast video. To see more of Todd’s work please go to For the latest information on workshops and trips, sign up for our newsletter.


Samy's Underwater Photo & Video

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