My 3 Favorite Mammals (Twelve Days of Favorites, day 10)
Today I want to show you my three favorite mammals in my photography. This turned out to be a more difficult choice than I expected, because there are a bunch more that I really wanted to include, but I resisted the urge to make the third choice “everything else”. You’re welcome.
- Sea Otters: If you told me I could only photograph one mammal for the rest of my life, the choice would be easy, the Sea Otter. They are interesting, sociable creatures who are found along the California coast. They tend to live in groups called rafts and can be found in locations reasonably accesible to humans — I typically photograph them at Moss Landing Harbor, which is the entrance to Elkhorn Slough, and down in Morro Bay Harbor.
- Elephant Seals: Large, frankly ugly creatures who spend most of their time in the water, these beasts come onto land a few times a year to give birth, mate, and shed their skin. During those times there are places where they are accessible to go and watch these animals; my favorite is down near Hearst Castle where there are some boardwalks that give you good access to seeing the action — and, most of the time, the sleeping. But when you spend time with these animals you come to see some grandeur and glory in them. The males build harems and defend the females from other males; combat tends to be short and intense, and invariably goes to the biggest males. The beaches these animals stay on while on shore often sound like the burping scene from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and if the wind is unfavorable and brings the smell towards you, it can be a bit offputting, but spending time just sitting and watching these animals is fascinating and over time you start noticing a lot of subtle but complex interactions that make them a fascinating species to study.
- Bison: I struggled with the third mammal because there were so many choices I wanted to make. I finally decided on the Bison, a huge, majestic beast that I’ve primarily photographed in Yellowstone. Large, grumpy but when you see them in person you see a truly majestic and impressive animal. I’ve been trying to find a way to get back to Yellowstone again for the last few years and it hasn’t worked out, but when I sit back and think about what I most want to photograph when that does happen, I find that the Bison herds is one of the primary subjects I want to capture.
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