Skomer Island, Wales
29/06/16Since I had the opportunity to see and photograph puffins for the first time on a holiday to Shetland Islands in 2011, I have wanted to get a more dedicated chance to work with these charismatic and colourful little birds.
Therefore, I was very thrilled to enrol for the NaturesLens workshop on Skomer Island in Wales to get three full days of puffin photography led by the professional photographers Drew Buckley and Richard Peters.
Going to Skomer Island
Skomer is a small Island situated less than a mile off the coast of southwestern Wales and the group had to meet for the 15 minutes boat fare from Martin's Haven in the early morning of 18 June 2016.
Therefore, I had to travel the day before and took a morning flight from Copenhagen to London Heathrow and had about 400 kilometres in front of me in a hired car. I expected to arrive at my overnight stay late in the afternoon but the M4 traffic was terrible on a Friday afternoon. Thus, it took me almost 8 hours to reach Field Lodge late in the evening.
Next morning I parked the car at West Hook Farm and went to Martin's Haven with 42 kg of luggage including a lot of photo gear - it is not easy to travel light as a wildlife photographer!
Fortunately, the small boat would sail to Skomer Island this morning as the weather was fine. Actually, it was the first boat for several days to depart due to high seas.
When we arrived on Skomer all our luggage had to be carried up a steep hillside with 87 steps to the top before the heaviest stuff was brought to the farmhouse by a tractor. The old farmhouse is situated in the middle of the island so we still had to walk about 1 km before settling down.
Facilities are limited at the farmhouse as electricity and hot water is solar powered and we also had to bring all catering to the island. However, I found the accommodation fine and all worked very well during the three days stay. Even the evening meals made by Drew and Richard were appreciated although they are better photographers than chefs ... ; - )
Changing weather conditions
The sun was out and I spend the afternoon exploring the island in the good company of Peter and Linda, who happened to be Danes from my birthplace Aalborg - what a coincidence!
We all looked forward to the soft evening light and a beautiful sunset following an early dinner. Unfortunately the weather suddenly changed and it became cloudy, but we still had some fine photo opportunities.
The weather forecast for Sunday was rain so I decided for a long sleep to 6 a.m.
Following breakfast I went to the Landing Place where I had seen some razorbills and guillemots when we arrived the day before - it was not all about puffins!
Fortunately, there were a few of these strange looking seabirds and I got a few decent images. Also, a few puffins were to be found at the Landing Place and I got my first one with sand eels ... ; - )
Later, I went to The Wick on the southern part of the island where most of the puffins are located. As it was raining the whole day I had not to worry about harsh daylight and a different kind of images came out of my efforts.
Following a very wet and cold afternoon I decided to stay home in the evening as did a few others from the group. The main problem was to get our clothes dry for the next day, but we could use the fireplace and had a warm and cosy evening with lots of stories about our photo adventures - while the rest of the group got very wet!
Monday was our last full day on the island and the rain finally stopped during the morning. The sun came out in the afternoon and this time it lasted to sunset where we spend some hours trying our luck photographing puffins in flight. Unfortunately, my hit rate was poor. These little birds are flying very fast making it difficult to attain focus. Also, they landed all over the place so you had to be alert and lucky. Below are my best efforts!
To compensate for my lack of skills in flight photography I took some portraits to exploit the soft evening light.
Tuesday morning we were all packed and ready to return to the mainland. The weather was nice so the boat came to bring us back. Sometimes when the weather is bad you have to remain on the island for another day or even more - and we were out of food!
The traffic to London was fine and I reached London Heathrow well in time before my evening flight to Copenhagen.
It was a long journey going to Skomer Island but worth all the effort. I came home with a lot of new experiences and some fine images. Not to forget the many new (and some old) friends I met sharing the same passion about wildlife photography.