Too bad there are no leopard seals on National Geographic's payroll. Photographer Paul Nicklen's intimate portraits of the one who took particular interest in him on a recent Antarctic expedition are delightful. Imagine how great it would be to have some reverse angle reaction shots of Nicklen as his new friend attempts to serve him a succession of live, dead, and mutilated penguins.
He may have turned up his nose at his subject's cuisine, but Nicklen brings something else to the table, namely four days' worth of up close and personal shots of an animal doing something other than going about its business. Without anthropomorphizing its intentions over much, this creature went out of its way to acclimate its strange guest to his new surroundings, sticking around when lesser hosts would have abandoned him alongside the buffet. Pretty cool when you consider that Nicklen's entire head could - and briefly did - fit inside its massive, sharp fanged jaws.
- Ayun Halliday's encounters with species other than her own are a feature of her memoir, No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late