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Southern Male Elephant Seals Sparring

Southern Male Elephant Seals Sparring
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2001-01-03
Categories: Mammals
Camera: Canon EOS 1vHS, Canon 70-200 f 2.8 L USM, Fuji Provia 100
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2007-09-03 7:46
Viewed: 4141
Points: 24
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
I took this shot on one of our final landings on South Georgia. I considered cropping the shot to remove the seal in the foreground, but decided to leave it in the end, as it gives an impression of how crowded the colony was. The mist is steam rising from the commonal wallow. The smell from the wallow is almost certainly the WORST thing I have EVER smelt! Water plus skin, urine, excrement and sweat warmed by the bodies of tens of seals!!

The Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina) is one of two species of elephant seal (the other is the Northern Elephant Seal). It is not only the most massive pinniped but the largest member of the order Carnivora as well.

Southern Elephant Seals are found throughout the Sub-Antarctic regions. They used to live in large numbers around Tasmania, but were wiped out by the sealing industry and are now only seen there a few times a year. They are occasionally seen off the coasts of New Zealand and South Africa. They breed on the Sub-Antarctic islands, with the population at South Georgia being the largest (it includes about half of the entire species population). Other important populations are at Macquarie Island (over 80,000 individuals), Península Valdés, Heard Island and the Kerguelen Islands.

Southern elephant seals breed from August to November. The bulls arrive many weeks before the females do and claim territories though loud roars, body positions, and combat fighting. Like its cousin, this seal is highly polygynous and the most successful males, the alpha males, can have a harem of up to 60 females. Beta males are also present and have smaller harems. The least successful males have no harems but will go as far as to try to seduce an alpha or beta male's females when the male is not looking. An elephant seal must stay in his territory to defend it, which could mean months without eating and having to live on its blubber storage.

Pups are born 0-10 days after the females come to shore and are nursed up to 23 days. After that the pups left out to fend for themselves while the female mate with the harem males to produce a new pup. The weaned pup may leave the beach and teach itself how to feed. Overcrowded beaches are dangerous for pups as they are often crushed to death.

After their near extinction due to hunting in the 19th century, total population is about 600,000, but all the populations seem to be declining at present. The reasons for this are unclear, but it may simply be that once protection from hunting was established, the species recovered so fast that it overshot its equilibrium numbers. Most of their most important breeding sites are now protected by international treaty, as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or by national legislation.

This is a scanned slide.

go2stones, PaulH, garyfudge, gracious, ellis49, Evelynn, rousettus, pankajbajpai, gannu has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

Great dramatic shot! We can see the battle scars and the backs flexing to strike again. I think the seal in front is fine. It provides a foreground for the action. I like the mist and lush vegetation in the BG. Well done.


  • Great 
  • PaulH Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1137 W: 26 N: 3879] (13882)
  • [2007-09-03 8:55]

Hi James,
great atmosphere in this shot, the steam and the pose of these two squaring up to one another gives a real feel of violent competition. ...Great timing and a well seen shot, you can almost smell it from here.

Great shot James,

love the action of the steam! It really gives it a dramatic feel.
Good composition, the seal in the foreground does add to the crowded feel.


Hi James,
great atmosphere in this picture and good acton.
I like the composition and POV.
Nice scannig work and a very good note.
Well done.

Is that steam??? Whatever it is, it adds to the aura of intense aroma! I have boated next to colonies of sea lions before in Canada and it is truly an amazing smell... and that was on a much smaller scale than this colony. These two look quite battle worn. I wonder if they ever ask themselves if it is worth all the effor... I suppose it is.

I like the action and immediacy of your shot taken in the natural setting. It is a perfect posting for TN.

Evelynn : )

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2007-09-03 13:37]

Hi Will be back with full critiqe tuesday

Hi james,
very nice action shot with great details and sharpnes, POV/DOF and composition. thanks. best wishes

hello james,
nice moment captured, the image is sharp, the dof is very good, nice point of view, well composed shot,
well done,
tfs & regards

Hello James,
Good composition with two seals sparring!
the mist from the back add a big bonus too!
good clarity, real colour and details
thanks for the wonderful useful notes

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2007-09-04 1:20]

Hi James,
a great shot of this fight scene.
Great movement.
Sharp and detailed.
Well done,

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2007-09-04 3:09]

James you have been taking things out frm your your archive. The shot is just perfect with the river on the BG. Ganesh

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2007-09-04 13:52]

Hello James

A very good capture...seems futile,like the young lads fighting in the WC at the pub.I guess all species have their version.Well composed with great clarity and detail.TFS

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