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Puffin Photos 2017

This was my third trip to Skomer Island, off the Pembrokeshire coast, for a few days of puffin photography (Here's a link to a post from my first visit).

Generally speaking, I don't like to repeat trips too much (since there's a whole world out there to see!), but Skomer truly seems to be one of the best wildlife experiences in the UK. And more to the point; it's certainly one of the best wildlife photography opportunities - and at a time of year when there's less else around. The harsh light, early sunrise, late sunset, and heat of summer generally combine to make it the most challenging season, photographically. So having a few action-packed days to break up the summer is always welcome.

Adult Atlantic Puffin against the sunset sky.
Puffin Sunset (Square)

There are benefits to revisiting a location multiple times. I'm familiar with the different areas of the island; where I want to spend my time and at what time of day. And I know the different sections of those areas, which I can use in different ways to create different results, depending on the light.

An atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), at sunset, at The Wick, on Skomer Island.
Puffin at Sunset

The first time I visited I over-packed food and clothing, but I've been able to be more economical with space on subsequent visits. When it comes down to it, you need surprisingly little for just a couple of days/nights on the island. Similarly, I'm more aware of the lenses I'll need and which ones I can leave behind. The latter as a result of familiarity with the opportunities and the shots I can go for.

Silhouette of an atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctic) against the amber sunset sky, and grey-blue ocean.
Puffin Sunset Sillhouette

But there are also drawbacks to returning to the same place several times. It's easy to repeat myself, and spend time trying to get shots which I've taken before. Believe it or not, it's also easy to become blasé at being surrounded by puffins, which was incredible first time around! So I do try to stop taking photos at times to make sure I take the time to enjoy the experience.

Puffins (Fratercula arctica) against pastel skies, after sunset
Puffin and Pastels

I guess the only real drawback of Skomer, photographically, is it's popularity. That's great for the prospect of the island wildlife, for the Wildlife Trust, and for anyone who gets to visit. But as a photographer I see so many photos from Skomer these days, that coming back with something that feels like mine is getting more difficult as time goes on.

A puffin, against the green background of Skomer Island.
Puffin On Green

For example, on my previous visit in 2015 I got some wide-angle photos, taking in more of the scene and The Wick as a seabird colony. But since then I've seen plenty of other people doing the same. So although I shot a few this time around, they feel less original than before.

Wide-angle photo of a puffin colony at the Wick, on Skomer Island, as the sun sets behind.
Puffin Colony At Sunset

So far I think my Skomer photos reflect my style quite well, and don't look too generic. It takes a little more work, but I feel like I'm still able to create something interesting and appealing. And given the opportunity, I'd love to go again. I have plenty more ideas to play with. But realistically, as much as I like Skomer, I might try seeing puffins somewhere else next time, just for a change of scene.

Portrait of an Atlantic Puffin.
Puffin Portrait

Of course one ongoing project of mine is to remove the context and surroundings altogether, by shooting On Black. I was able to capture these darker portraits by shooting against a dark section of cliff face in various lighting situations.

Portrait of an Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica), shot low-key on a black background.
Puffin On Black

I shot these last two portraits intending to push the shadows to black (as above), but I later decided that I preferred them with a little of the green background for context.

Portrait of an atlantic puffin, in the classic style.
Classic Puffin Portrait
An Atlantic Puffin on a cliff top in low light.
Low-Light Puffin

If you've never been to Skomer, I'd highly recommend it. It's popular for good reason. You can book one of many one-day or multi-day photography workshops run there, or you can book directly via the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales. They sell out early though, so you'll need to book in the autumn for the next summer. If you're not a photographer and you just want to see the puffins, you can just turn up on the day and get the boat across for a few hours with them. Again though - do get there early to reserve a place on the boat.




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