It's a lesson in composition: the top photo tells a story. It places the bird in context. You can clearly see the next jetty across the channel, the Santa Monica Bay parasailer in the distance, and then the Santa Monica mountains.
What the second photo loses in context, it gains in detail. Its cocked head gives the bird a bit more personality.
That's even more true for the portrait, which sacrifices the larger context of the rest of the gull's body for the ability to distinguish among individual feathers. There are just enough grey feathers visible to clearly identify the bird as a California gull, while other features, like the red on the bottom of the beak and the curvature of the beak's top, become even further pronounced.
All were taken on September 21, 2013 in Playa Del Rey, Los Angeles, California with a Canon 60D and Canon 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 telephoto zoom lens.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Jason G. Goldman is a science journalist based in Los Angeles. He has written about animal behavior, wildlife biology, conservation, and ecology for Scientific American, Los Angeles magazine, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the BBC, Conservation magazine, and elsewhere. He contributes to Scientific American's "60-Second Science" podcast, and is co-editor of Science Blogging: The Essential Guide (Yale University Press). He enjoys sharing his wildlife knowledge on television and on the radio, and often speaks to the public about wildlife and science communication. Follow Jason G. Goldman on Twitter