No flying monkeys . . . just decked out in a witch’s neoprene and bearing abalone floats. These abalone divers on the Mendocino coast were part of a swarm — yes swarm — of divers, foraging in pools laid bare by the low tide. It was a super-low tide (-2.1) receding just at dawn. We had no idea that sunrise would reveal hundreds upon hundreds of divers crawling over the tidal crevices.

The folks we chatted with at the beach and in cafes had strong feelings about the very real issue of abalone poaching. Abalone limits are largely self-policed, owing to shortage of enforcement. You can read more about the abalone poaching issue here — and how it affects Mendocino County.

The floats serve multiple purposes, carrying gear as divers scramble across the rocks, acting as flotation devices in dangerous waters, and holding the abalone after it’s been harvested.

I can’t resist an image that begs for allusions. So this is my vague tribute to L. Frank Baum and Judy Garland.

Abalone Divers in Mendocino

Abalone Divers in Mendocino County - ©ingridtaylar

The Photo: Shot with my Olympus E-3 and Zuiko 70-300mm lens (140-600mm/35mm equivalent). If you follow this blog, you know I shoot with that lens a lot. It’s my primary wildlife glass, short of owning a $5000 prime lens. And it has super macro capabilities. Of course, shooting with a telephoto tends to compress the subjects, which is what happened here. The divers were quite a distance from the rocks in front of them. I didn’t expose well for the white float. The camera was set to spot-metering for another shot and I just quickly turned to see these guys, metering halfway between the white and the black. Sometimes tricking the meter works well without any exposure compensation, but they were gone before I could shoot a backup with different settings.