Pictures We Love: Enchanting Encounters With a Harp Seal

At National Geographic, photography is what holds our stories together and what makes them shine. It’s what we do the best and love the most. Our photo editors work with thousands of images every year (if not every day) and so we asked each of them—editors from National Geographic MagazineNational Geographic Magazine, News, Traveler, Your Shot, and Proof—to share one picture that stood out for them in 2014. We didn’t ask them to talk about the “best” photo, but the one that resonated with them the most. Over the coming days, we’ll bring you their personal reflections and share the heart of what we’ve been up to this year.

Kathy Moran, Senior Editor, Natural History, National Geographic Magazine

Most images of harp seal pups are taken while they are on the ice—a period of great vulnerability. It’s only a matter of days till this young pup will gain weight, lose its white coat, and enter the world of water it is contemplating in this photograph. I like this photograph for just that reason. It shows the pup suspended between two worlds—the world of ice it now knows; and the world of water it will soon inhabit.

Alexa Keefe, Photography Producer, Proof

There is something about this photograph by Jennifer Hayes of a mother seal coaxing her pup into the water that is very touching—and familiar. It is a sweet, everyday moment. Assigning animals with human characteristics is an easy thing to do. When we see behavior that actually is the same, it reinforces how connected we all are as living creatures.

Hayes wrote a post for Proof about another encounter during the shoot that takes this connection to another level. Photographing in the water with the mother and pup, Hayes was attacked by a male harp seal. The mother seal came her defense, propelling Hayes and the pup away from the males. Reading Hayes’ account, I could feel the mix of exhilaration and the terror of being in the wild, equally close to moments of tenderness and savagery.

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Browse more of our favorite images from 2014 in these related “Pictures We Love” posts:

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