Thursday, 30 June 2016

A Farne Islands Return - Part 2

I finally managed to look through the remainder of the photographs took at my recent visit the the Farne Islands.  I’m a little disappointed that there wasn’t that ‘special’ image amongst them, a few nearlys had it not been for misfocus or cut off parts of the bird, but that’s photography for you.  Last year I took a 500mm lens to see what, if any, difference that would make.  Turns out I found it a disadvantage over previous years taking the 400mm.  The most obvious reason being the birds are all around you – feet away, the 400mm lens seems the best option all round.  The other not so obvious is the more limited field of view.  It’s hard keeping a fast flying Puffin within the viewfinder.  Then of course there is the portability, it’s much more convenient hand holding a lens which you can easily swing around.  On the day there were people with everything from camera phones to 500mm lens to even a cine camera!

On the Ground

Like the Turns, the Puffins nested right up to the boardwalks (or at least their burrows were).  Surprising everybody I saw were standing up when taking pictures.  By kneeling down I was able to get a few more interment shots at eye level.





A close up.  You can just about make out my reflection in it eye


A Puffin being mobbed of its catch by Black Headed Gulls


In the Air


Coming in for a landing







One of the few images of a Puffin with Sand eels


On the Edges

Perhaps the only reason why you might want to take a long lens were for those birds further out on the cliff edges, though I was till able to take some images at 400mm, no cropping.




Some Technical Details

The best way I found to photographing a Puffin in flight was to look for one in the distance, follow it in the viewfinder whilst focusing on it, then when it got close enough, take the picture – or in my case I let the camera shoot at its full 10 fps.  You can see in the image below that the sky could be crowded with birds often over lapping the bird I was following so I set the tracking focusing sensitivity to partially slow.  Despite being reasonably bright to start off I used ISO 400 or 800 and for those birds in flight the smallest aperture I could with a shutter speed over 1/1000.  Unfortunately my camera doesn’t support true auto ISO as this would have helped due to the sudden drop in shutter speed once the birds landed against the darker background.


Strangely this year, the Puffins were flying in from the opposite direction with their catch, than with previous years hence few opportunities to photograph them with Sand eel as I'd done on previous occasions.  I’m guessing this was down to the stronger winds and direction?  One of these years I will take out the tour option where you can the best part of the day visiting the different islands and can spend more time on each.  The single trip works out as barely 45 minutes photographing time so the tendency is to just take as many photos as possible in the time rather than just sit back watch what’s happening and taking a bit more effort with the photography, maybe spend some time just trying to catch a Puffin flying into its burrow, avoiding the Gulls.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A Farne Islands Return - Part 1

Well, it’s that time of year again when it’s time to pay a visit to the Farne Islands.  I often take a week or two off work around the busiest time on the islands, when the various chicks are needing regular feeding and, too much later, will have fledged.  As always the weather played a determined part in my going, with Monday looking ok’ish, Tuesday and Wednesday rain forecasted and Thursday, Friday…well the forecasters are hopeless and predicting a reliable weather report that far ahead, so didn’t want to risk waiting. Monday it was.

The whole Farne Islands experience starts with the boat trip around the islands where they stop right up to the cliffs where there is an assortment of nesting birds including Puffins, Shags, Kittiwakes and Guillemots.  There was even a sight of a Gannet.





As well as the birds on the cliffs, you’re taken around the seal colony.  They seemed quite un phased and indifferent by it all, these tourists packed inside a boat gawking at them, despite again, getting close up.





Finally comes the landing on Inner Farne, just one of the islands that makes up the Farnes.  Everybody’s pre warned and ready for what comes next!  Head protection on, as it’s the gauntlet of Terns once you’re off the boat and walk up the board walk, past the Tern nests.  Each year, despite the thousands of visitors, the Terns still nest in the same place, often a few feet away from where people pass.  I suppose the official reason for the attacks is that they are protecting their nests, but watching I can’t help but wonder if they don’t do it because they enjoy it.  I stopped to take one photo of the below Tern who just starred at me with a grumpy look, otherwise I did what I do every year which is walk past, wide angle lens on my camera which is set to the fastest frames per second possible, point up and walk!

Most shots are out of focus or out of frame but the occasional one is just about right.  It’s not so much the pecking I’m concerned about but what the other end of the bird can do and looking at the jackets of the helpers on the island who are there daily, it’s probably wise not to hang around.  Besides you have less than an hour on the island which may seem a while but that time soon goes.





The main part of the trip, at least from a photographic point of view are the Puffins and there is not short supply of them.  The boardwalks continue around the island and through the vegetation where the Puffin burrows are where the chicks are in the nests.  For anyone who has never been to the islands the sight and sound is amazing.  Much like the Terns, the Puffins are also nesting right past where you walk, though unlike the Terns the Puffins have a bit more of a easy going nature – maybe too much so as they have to pass the gauntlet that are the gulls, intent of robbing them of their Sand eel catch.  They fly in and are immediately accosted by the gulls often five or more and have to scramble into their burrows.  Little chance then of the classic photograph of a Puffin with a beak full of the eels then.






Having not even looked at a third of the images taken on the day, I’ve decided to break this down into two different blogs with the second part coming after I’ve had a chance to look at the remaining photographs I took on the day.  Hopefully there might be a few ‘special’ ones.