Yawn scratch bellow sniff rut flip bellow yawn, watching the world go by! I photographed these elephant seals on the California coast about ten miles north of Old San Simeon. (Not, as has been suggested at Ano Nuevo on the south San Mateo coast, I’ve got to get there some time.) This was on my recent road trip with my two oldest sons after the Moneterey Aquarium and before Hearst Castle.
From the viewpoint of photo composition, I didn’t know quite what to do with the vast and raucous field of elephant seals, playing fighting, pooping, and mostly lying like some awful parody of our own civilization. Looking at this scene, I felt I needed some visual counterpoint to the drab colors of the sand beach and these gigantic, weird, and wonderful beasts. When the elephant seal in this photo yawned, I was ready to capture the pink of his mouth, which together with the bird nearby makes this composition work through contrast: the eye is drawn to the pink, regardless of the activity in the rest of the photo. Only gradually does the full extent of the scene sink in. The effect is perhaps best viewed larger.
[Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens at 200mm (300mm in 35mm terms) with image stabilization engaged, 1/250 of a second at f/8 and ISO 100, hand held.]