Saturday, 4 July 2009

Skomer (Part II): Puffin Flypasts

Last week I posted up some of my puffin portraits from Skomer. Puffins are relatively fearless and as such are quite easy to get close to on the ground. In flight it is a different story. They are small, fast and tend not to travel in straight lines - all of which makes them quite difficult to photograph. Unfortunately my EOS 1D MkIIN - which I bought especially to help with flight shots - was back at Canon being repaired (again!).

To start with I positioned myself at the top of the cliffs to photograph them as they slowed down to land. However, they were mostly coming in below me and ascending at the last moment. This presented two problems. The 20D's auto-focus struggled to pick the puffins out from the clutter below and there was simply too little time to bring the camera to bear and acquire a lock. It was hard for the puffins as well - two of them nearly hit me in the face!

After an unsuccessful half hour I decided a change of tactics was needed. I moved further along The Wick to a place where they were flying along the cliff rather than coming directly into land. Here there was a reasonable stream of puffins above the horizon - which cut out the clutter and enabled me to see them earlier. I also switched to a longer lens. Even this was no picnic. Despite plenty of targets all too often I didn't even hit the shutter release as the camera struggled to focus. However, with a lot of patience I fired off over two hundred frames in the course of a couple of hours. When I got back to check them I was praying for at least one decent picture. In fact I had about fifteen - far better than I'd expected.

The day after I left Skomer I had a text from Canon to say my camera had been repaired and was on its way back. The good news is that this time they appear to have fixed the problem, but I'd have liked to have tried it on Skomer!


  1. Hi,
    Wow speechless!! These are terrific shots! I love the last one and expect to get some like this one day. I just hope they will finally manage to breed this year!!

  2. Fantastic photographs of the Puffins. Well done!

  3. I'm planning a trip to Skomer for next year, if I can do half as well as you, I'll be happy...

  4. Nice shots of the Puffins!

    You're so lucky to have them. Over here in Hokkaido there are 2 or 3 pairs of Tufted Puffins in one location only (and they're usually nesting way offshore)......

    Interesting blog......

  5. We went last year,had a fantastic time,by the look of your outstanding Images so did you.
    Great Puffin capture.

  6. Thanks everyone for the kind comments. Hope your trip is successful next year, Fay!

  7. Funny Puffin. Good photo. Good subject.


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