Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Shetland: Otters, Puffins and More

So after a 6 hour delay waiting for flights and then a 3 hour drive/ferry trip through the islands I made to Unst the top island in the Shetlands which would be my home for the next few nights. 

 Otter Cub

Shetland has long been a part of the United Kingdom I've wanted to visit and as a wildlife photographer it plays host to lots of A List species like otters, puffins, gannets and even orcas. My main aim was to get images of otters and puffins but also some of the other species. I had hoped to do more underwater photography but the weather and time was not on my side for this trip. 

Enjoying a crab onshore 

The Shetland isles have a healthy population of eurasian otters and unlike there mainland cousins these ones have adapted to a life at sea. Eating a range of fish and crabs they have plenty to choose from in the rich waters around the islands. Low tide is the best time to find them as they hunt along the shore. This otter came out of the water to eat the crab just a few metres away from me!

Cub (left) and Mum (right) at low tide 

Over the course of a week I must of seen 20 otters and as long as you keep your eyes peeled spotting otters on Shetland isn't to difficult its getting the images that is the hard part. Lots of walking up and down rough ground is needed and plenty of fieldcraft to avoid them hearing, smelling or seeing you. The otters on Shetland tend to be slightly darker and smaller then the mainland otters but whats most beneficial to photographers is they come out in the day quite happily.

 Latest in a series of wildlife selfies with Josh

My guide for the week was Josh Jaggard who works for Shetland Nature and happens to be a good friend of mine. Although certain species you can go and find on your own, certainly for the decent photo opportunities I'd recommend a guide particularly for otters and you can't beat Shetland Nature for this. I wouldn't class myself as a novice with fieldcraft but a lot of things that wouldn't of crossed my mind Josh instructed me so that the wildlife wasn't disturbed and I got a photo or two.

 Puffin in its habitat

I've photographed puffins in the Farne Islands before with minimal success and even planning to photograph them underwater (when I get round to it) but still lacked some basic portraits and a few wide angles. The cliffs around Shetland have huge seabird colonies with gannets, fulmars and shags mixed in with the puffins. Shetland is wet and windy on the best of days so waterproofs are very handy though reading one of the notice boards it mentions they aren't the best clothing for the cliffs as if you fell you'd slide down quite quickly which I wasn't keen on.

Golden light just slipping away 

Josh had spent 3 months on the islands and said in all that time he'd only seen a handful of golden light sunsets so when it happened with the puffins I tried to capture as many images as possible with the soft golden light around.

Stretching its wings for flight 

Puffins are a iconic subject as such have been photographed very heavily this can sometimes put off photographers but I always think each photographer has there own unique style however subtle so don't be put off just because others have done it, it doesn't mean your audience hasn't seen it or potential clients.

Territorial display against other bonxies 

These big bullies were a bit of a surprise for me I'd heard of Great Skuas (Bonxies locally) but not given them much thought. They have a lot of character and known as pirates of the cliffs as they harass and bully birds as big as gannets to drop there catch. They have a darker side though as they quite enjoy eating seabirds like puffins and littered around the cliffs you can see wings spread from where they have tucked into a meal.

Black Guilliemots 

I didn't quite get the shot I wanted with these guys and did even try to do some underwater photography with them but the weather got a bit rough. The classic shot is of the red feet on show and mouth open showing the red but they had other ideas!

Overall my trip to Shetland was success getting most of the images I wanted and I'll be back to get some more underwater images!

BBC Wildlife Local Patch Reporter
Jack Perks

@JackPerksPhoto
Facebook: Jack Perks Photography
Website: www.jackperksphotography.com

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