Photographing Puffins on Skomer Island

15 Jun 2015, Posted by Elliot Hook in Blog, trips, wildlife

Ahead of another trip to Skomer to photograph puffins, I’ve been looking back through images taken nearly 12 months ago, in July 2014, when I was fortunate enough to spend two nights on the island, just off the coast of Pembrokeshire, photographing puffins.  The island is easily accessible for day trips throughout the summer but overnight stays need to be booked in advance through the WWT website.  The best thing about overnight stays is that day-trippers leave the island at around 5pm meaning that, from 5pm through to sunset, you have the island virtually to yourselves, similarly at sunrise.  Therefore, with two nights on the island, we had the potential for two sunsets and two sunrises to spend photographing the puffins.

Once on Skomer, the main place to photograph puffins is The Wick.  The sheer number of puffins at The Wick is just unreal and it’s fair to say for the first 10 to 15 minutes I was paralysed by the number of options in front of me, not knowing where to start!  However, I soon got into the swing of it, and thoroughly enjoyed spending time photographing the puffins.  One thing that is worth noting though, which may sound obvious, is that the difference the light made throughout the evening was amazing.  I’m already a big fan of shooting at sunrise/sunset, but at the time I was happily snapping away throughout the entire evening, relatively pleased with the results.  It was only on reviewing the images when back at home that I realised how much better the images were as it got closer to sunset.  I really could have saved myself a memory card full of images, given the sheer number that I deleted!

I’ve shared plenty of puffin images from Skomer already, both on my Gallery page and on Flickr, however whilst recently reviewing the images taken last year, I realised that I still had a fair few that went unprocessed that deserve to see the light of day.  As such, I thought I’d share a few of my personal favourites before sharing those recently processed few.  First off though, a photo taken by George Wheelhouse of a puffin that jumped up on to my lap, showing just how comfortable these birds are with people.

Atlantic Puffin, Skomer

Anyway, my favourite three images from the trip are probably these three below.  I just love the result of shooting in the glorious light that can only be witnessed during an overnight stay, or the archetypal image of a puffin amongst the daisies.

Atlantic Puffin (fratercula arctica)

Atlantic Puffin (fratercula arctica)

Atlantic Puffin (fratercula arctica)

Given the amount of time we had to spend with the puffins and how approachable they are, it was a fantastic opportunity to experiment with a range of images including close up portraits, wider portraits, in-flight shots and even some wide-angle work.  These are probably my two favourite closer portraits.  The first (left) was taken virtually at the limit of close focussing distance of my 70-200mm allowing me to capture the fantastic detail in the feathers.  The second (right) was really late into the evening, taking advantage of the low side-light.

Atlantic Puffin, Skomer Island

Atlantic Puffin, Skomer Island

Anyway, the point of this post was to share images that I hadn’t previously uploaded before. Below are a handful of images that were saved from the recycle bin when finally going through the few memory cards worth of images.  My biggest learning from last years trip to Skomer is to take fewer images, especially quite so early on in the evening.  When I come back with hundreds of images, I lose interest in editing them pretty quickly so they just sit on my hard drive being about as much use as if I had never taken them at all.

So here are a few ‘new’ puffin images from last summer:

A few friends and I have another trip booked to go and stay on Skomer for two nights in a couple of weeks time, so reviewing my favourite images over the last week or so has been a valuable exercise in working out what I want to get from another trip.  I can only hope we’re as lucky with the weather as we were last year and that I can come away with as many pleasing images from this trip.

  • Emma
    June 22, 2018

    Hi, great photographs

    What lens would you recommend for taking shots of the puffins . I have a Nikon d750 but only have kit lens so am looking to upgrade

    • October 12, 2018

      You can use virtually any lens to photograph the puffins from a wide angle through to a telephoto. Something like a 70-200mm would give you some flexibility for framing different images but may fall a little short for getting clean, diffuse backgrounds. Something like a 300mm f/4 (or a 70-200mm f/2.8 with a 1.4x TC) would give you the perfect focal length for nice portraits whilst being easy to handle.

  • October 9, 2019

    […] I thought it a good idea to revisit the images I took from my 2015 trip, as well as look at my puffin portfolio overall, to help shape my ideas for images for the forthcoming trip.  Looking at images in this way […]


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