This is how you know your on the Outer Banks I guess, when even the wildlife wants to just lay around and nap on the beach!
These images here are all from the same seal, just different angles. What I want to point out is how that the overall composition and emotion of the image changes as the background and even foreground shift with different angles. Backgrounds are especially critical for wildlife photography as they become the canvas for which you will display you subject.
In the vertical shot, I had slipped around behind the seal to both use the ocean as the backdrop and to explore a more unique perspective that would figure the front flippers into the composition. With wildlife portraits like this, I look to offer a heavy dose of anthropomorphizing. This just means that I try to humanize my subjects as much as possible. From this angle then I was able to use the front flippers as part of the image that I wanted to create. As humans, we have hands and this is something that we can relate to. Even though flippers are not hands, it doesn’t matter. Our brains are hardwired to recognize and connect to this.
With the overcast skies, the ocean had taken on its tell tale steely gray coloration that tends to characterize the water here in the winter. This would have worked OK for a background as is, but I wanted a little more color. In order to do this I had to wait for waves to stand up on the sandbar that set just off the shore behind the seal. When the waves would rise up, the emerald green of our phytoplankton rich waters would unfurl across the background in the viewfinder. From here, it was just a matter of getting the timing right, that is, when the seal was actually looking up over its belly and a wave was rising up behind him.
In the horizontal image I moved back around to face the seal head on. This brought the towering dune behind the seal into the composition which of course was of similar color to the sand around the seal. By taking my camera off of my home made ground pond I was able to get the lens low enough to the ground to capture a fine layer of sand that was blowing down the beach. This layer of sand gave the image more depth and a slight artistic feel.