Good photography isn’t as simple as it might seem.  On our recent photo adventure to the Antarctic Peninsula, the 12 of us who were part of Juan Pons Photography’s group got together for our initial meeting and each of us said a little about our photography experience.  I explained that I took up photography a few years ago as a way to deal with the boredom of watching my spouse take photos for hours.  I added that what I lack in skill I compensate for with my ability to tell a story with a photo. 

Several times during the three-week trip we met to discuss one photo each of us submitted.  I learned a great deal about choice of subject, depth of field, editing (but not too much editing) and, of course, light. And I was in awe of the “eye” and skill of others in our group. What I came to realize is that National Geographic is never going to hire me.  Here’s why:

I thought this photo I took at St. Andrews Bay was hilarious because while these two giant males are growling, shoving, and biting each other’s throats, the penguins, gulls and even an already-bloodied male sea lion are standing and lying around as if a life-and-death struggle is just another day at the beach. These male Southern Sea Lions can weigh as much as 8,800 lbs. and fight as if they are willing to die for the privilege of mating with a female sea lion.  However, that’s not true. According to “Fights between male Elephant seals are actually quite rare as most of the males can size each other up before the fight and work out which male will win.”

The dominant male is called the “Beach Master” and can amass a harem of 50 females.” I love this sentence:  “Males will usually only have one season as beach master. This is because the constant stress, wakefulness, fighting and hunger means males cannot keep it up for a second season.”

One of the reasons my photo could be better is that it is cluttered.  The drama (such as it is) is between the two males.  The bloody male in the foreground and oblivious King Penguins detract from the main event:  the two giants sparring.  Look at it this version:

It’s better. You can focus on these two bozos and their meaningless encounter. And remember: the winner will be too tired to be the Master of the Beach next year. It hardly seems worth the trouble–which is a good reason to take photos for my own amusement and NatGeo will just have to find a more serious photographer.




About Alexis

Alexis Rankin Popik, author of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in The Berkshire Review and Potpourri Magazine. She has penned numerous articles about local history that have been published in Connecticut Explored and the University of Connecticut School of Law and The Hartford Seminary publications. A former union organizer, Popik traveled the country educating shipyard workers about health and safety and founded a labor-management health plan before turning to writing fiction full-time. She lives with her husband in New England.
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