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.


  1. What is this bird? sea gull? they are nice!

  2. Hi Albert. All the birds here are Atlantic Puffins except the fifth image with two Black Headed Gulls trying to rob the Puffin of its catch and the second last image which is of a Shag.

    1. aha..stealing fish! I thought Black Headed Gulls attacked at the head of Puffin!