Meet the friendliest seal in Britain - and the man who took its picture

'There's always one that gets really involved and goes crazy playing with you'

Nick Blake is no stranger to photographing the various creatures along Britain's coastline, but even he was taken aback at this apparently affable young seal.

He captured the award-winning image just as the friendly Atlantic Grey seal - which appears to be smiling - grasped his flipper.

Entitled "Hello Cheeky", the picture won a gold medal in the underwaterphotography.com competition.

Mr Blake said he took the photograph around four to five metres underwater near Lundy Island in Bristol Channel, where there is a colony of around 180 Atlantic Grey seals.

On taking photographs of the seals at Lundy, Mr Blake told The Independent the most curious and playful animals were juveniles of around one or two years old.

He said mature seals tended to observe divers from a distance and avoid interaction.

"The longer you spend in the water, the more curious they [the seals] become," he said.

"There's always one that gets really involved and go crazy playing with you and your equipment.

"And the seal in this photo was just such character".

He added that playful encounters can last up to 30 minutes.

For any budding marine photographer looking for such a seal encounter, Mr Blake advised: "The trick is to not go after them but rather ignore them and play around with your camera.

"Let them come to you."

Photographing seals at Lundy has become an annual trip for Mr Blake which he rates as highly as more exotic dives such as photographing sharks in the waters around South Africa. 

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