Puffins in Flight

Puffin in flight July 5 8419

Image: Atlantic puffin in flight, Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 240 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

The first day I walked onto the Farne Islands, I was overwhelmed by the scene before me.  Tens of thousands of birds had made this their nesting grounds and home for several months of the year.  For someone new to bird and wildlife photography, this was more than I could process.  Coming from Arizona, I had never seen so much wildlife concentrated in one location.  I had a glimpse of a similar habitat on Hornoya Island in Norway a month ago, but these islands dwarfed even that.  Initially, my goal was simply to photograph a puffin in flight.  At the time, it didn’t matter if I caught the puffin from the side, as long as I got a sharp image.

Puffin flying July 5 1070

Image: Atlantic puffin in flight, Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 370 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

When I captured what I thought would be a decent image, then I focused on the light and whether or not there were harsh shadows on the puffin.  This was difficult since the first 5 days on the island were sunny.  If I caught the bird in the correct angle with the sun behind me, I was able to get a shot without the harsh contrast being so apparent.  This worked well when I caught the backside of the puffin correctly.

Puffin flying July 7 9006

Image: Atlantic puffin in flight, Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 640, hand-held.

On some days when the brightness of the sun lessened slightly, I tried to experiment with some images of the puffins flying towards me.  Of course, it was always a bonus if fish were in their mouths, as this was the season for them to bring back the fish to their pufflings.

Puffin flying July 8 7928

Image: Atlantic puffin in flight, Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 290 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

There was one bout of clouds for 15 minutes during those first 5 days and I maximized those 15 minutes by focusing only on puffins in flight.  I tried some direct head-on shots after watching their flight patterns and moving just below the hill where they were launching.  I was lucky to get this image below with no fish and its legs crossed and the first image in this blog above with fish.

Puffin flying July 5 8617

Image: Atlantic puffin in flight, Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 240 mm, f/6.3, 1/5000 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held.

From there, I knew there were many more angles and images I could capture when the puffins were flying.  I tried to capture some when the puffin was banking left or right.

Puffin flying July 8 7838

Image: Atlantic puffin in flight, Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 310 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

I saw some puffins going almost horizontal in their turns and was lucky enough to catch this image below.

Puffin flying July 8 8278

Image: Atlantic puffin in flight, Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

I then worked on images of the puffins putting on the breaks as they slowed down in their journey from the sea.  I had to make sure the shutter speed was high to capture the wings in focus as the speed of these birds was quite fast.

Puffin in flight July 5 8707

Image: Atlantic puffin in flight, Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 240 mm, f/6.3, 1/5000 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held.

As they flew closer to land, their legs and feet started to descend to a landing position and I could capture the details in the webbing of their feet.

Puffin flying July 8 7833

Image: Atlantic puffin in flight, Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 310 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

I know I could have been more selective in the images posted here, but I had too much fun with them.  The expression on the puffin in this last image just makes me smile.

Puffin flying July 5 8593

Image: Atlantic puffin in flight, Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 260 mm, f/6.3, 1/5000 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held.

When I started photographing the puffins the first day, my shutter speed was quite a bit lower and I had to increase it due to the speed of their wings and their flight speed in general.  With the cloudy skies, I kept the ISO around 800-1000 and my aperture stayed constant at f/6.3 since the birds were far enough away from me that this was an appropriate setting for the depth of field.

Protecting the Chicks

 

Tern chick July 4 5205

Image: Arctic Tern chick chirps for food, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 410 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

The more time I spend photographing the animal kingdom, the more respect I gain for all the creatures trying to survive and raise young.  The Arctic Terns showed an amazing and aggressive dedication to their young, even against threats as big as humans.  Inner Farne Island was a microhabitat that suited their breeding and nesting needs.  Unfortunately, their nesting location was along the docks and boardwalk where visitors disembark from the boats.  As I mentioned in my previous post, we had to wear hats to avoid the terns drawing blood on the top of our heads when they poked us as we walked by.  I tried walking as slow as possible and watched out for chicks along the boardwalk.  Even that wasn’t enough to allow me to get by unscathed.  :-).

Tern chick July 6 6860

Image: Arctic Tern chick hiding, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 440 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

The chicks hid in the bushes and on the sandy shore among the flowers and were all different ages.  Most of them were chirping and calling out to their parents to fill their hungry bellies.

Tern chick July 6 6661

Image: Arctic Tern chick chirping for food, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

As shown in my previous post, one parent was typically off catching fish while the other guarded the nest, attacking the heads of humans or other fending off other birds. Some terns chicks were quite eager for food and even pecked at the parent.

Tern chicks with parent July 6 6693

Image: Arctic Tern chicks chirping for food, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 440 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

For a short video of this, please click below.  You can hear the chirping and see the interaction between one parent tern and its chick.  The wire fencing was put along the boardwalk by the National Trust to help keep chicks off the boardwalk and protect them.  When the chicks were old enough, this barrier wasn’t enough, and consequently, we walked around several on the boardwalk while waiting for the peck from above.

I enjoyed observing some of the older chicks as well as the cute fluffy newborns since the older chicks were beginning to discover their wings.  At times, they couldn’t figure out how to get their wings to function, which we can all relate to somedays.  🙂

Tern chick July 6 6647

Image: Arctic Tern chick learning how to fly, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

Another chick was having more success, thankfully, since it was on top of a rock and had further to fall than the one practicing on the sand.

Tern chick July 6 6759

 

Image: Arctic Tern chick learning how to fly, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

As I watched this little one, I could see the determination and concentration as it prepared its wings.

Tern chick July 6 6768

Image: Arctic Tern chick learning how to fly, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

It was struggling to figure out how to get some lift but then I saw an actual liftoff of 1-2 inches!  I think I was just as excited as the tern!

Tern chick July 6 6771

Image: Arctic Tern chick learning how to fly, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

It disturbed me initially to see the parent terns stressed out about defending their nests, but the National Trust workers assured us that having some humans on the island warded off larger birds of prey.  Visiting hours on the island were also kept to a minimum each day, as we were only allowed a two hour visit in the afternoon and the island was closed the rest of the day.

 

 

 

The Terns of the Farnes

 

Tern flying July 3 1575

Image: Arctic Tern flying around its nest.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 240 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

As we made our way up the docks from the boat to Inner Farne Island, we came across nesting Arctic Terns on both sides of the boardwalk. The adults were very protective of their chicks and we had to wear a hat to protect our heads as they could draw blood when they pecked the top of our heads as we walked by.  I was one of the lucky few who had a tern land on her head and stay there for several minutes.  :-).

Tern flying July 6 5236

Image: Arctic Tern hovering over its nest.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

Since it was bright and sunny almost every day on this island, I worked a lot on backlit shots of these birds.  Each day presented with slightly different conditions, even subtle changes in the color of the sky and the brightness of the sun.  In the image above, there was more haze in the sky but in the image below, the sky had a deeper blue that allowed the feathers to glow more.

Tern flying July 6 5338

Image: Arctic Tern hovering over its nest.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

The terns had beautiful symmetry when they were hovering and preparing to land. When I stood in the right location, I could capture this with the camera.  I was able to lighten the shadows on the frontside of the tern to allow me to salvage the image despite the harsh light.

Tern flying July 3 0632

Image: Arctic Tern hovering over its nest.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

Many of the Arctic Terns were bringing back little fish or sand eels from the sea to feed their chicks.  They often flew in large circles around the nest until they determined the right time to land and feed the chicks.

 

Tern flying with fish July 5 2968

Image: Arctic Tern flying to its nest with a fish.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 220 mm, f/6.3, 1/1600 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held.

There was also a colony of Sandwich Terns living on the island in an area separate from the Arctic Terns.  They were a bit harder to catch on the camera due to their speed and agility.  The black color of their beak was one of the distinguishing features that allowed me to spot them right away versus the red-orange beak of the Arctic Tern.

Tern flying July 5 1628

Image: Sandwich Tern flying to its nest with a fish.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 320 mm, f/6.3, 1/5000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

Each day always brought new opportunities for photography.  I enjoyed going back to the same location multiple times since it allowed us more opportunities to catch aspects of the birds’ lives.  Besides watching the terns bring food to their chicks, one afternoon we had the nice surprise of watching the Arctic and Sandwich Terns bathe from the boat.

Terns bathing July 7 1522

Image: 3 Arctic Terns and 1 Sandwich Tern bathing.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 390 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held from boat.

After their baths, the flew out of the water, shaking to fluff their feathers.  Sometimes they dipped down into the water once again, as the one below prepares for a second landing.

Tern flying over water July 7 1418

Image: Arctic Tern flying after a bath.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held from boat.

After their bath, they took off again back to their nests or on another journey.

Tern flying over water July 7 1453

Image: Arctic Tern flying after a bath.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held from boat.

 

 

Fish for Chicks

Puffin with fish July 4 3279

Image: An Atlantic puffin looks around intently with its fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/8, 1/3200 sec, ISO 640, hand-held

As we began to explore the Farne Islands in early July, we came across all the bird species seeking out food for their chicks.  From the boat, we could see the Atlantic Puffins, Common Murres and Razorbills floating on the water and diving down deep into the sea.  Occasionally, we saw a puffin come to the surface with a mouthful of sand eels far off in the distance.  When we got to shore, we were treated by these birds landing on the rocks, ready to begin the journey to feed their young.Puffin with fish July 8 7551

Image: An Atlantic puffin looks ahead intently with its fish, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held

The puffins can hold a large number of small fish in their beaks due to the structure of its jaw.  There is a flexible hinge and fleshy part at the back of the jaws that allow it to open it’s beak wider than other birds.  This, in addition to spines on the upper jaw that hold fish securely, allows the puffin to make multiple dives underwater to collect dozens of fish.

Puffin with fish July 4 3157

Image: An Atlantic puffin looks around intently with its fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200 sec, ISO 640, hand-held

When they arrive on land with their catch, they either dive into their burrows (future post with images) to get away from gulls trying to steal their catch or they pause on land for a bit.  Even when they rest, they are constantly on guard, looking in every direction, even behind them.

Puffin with fish July 4 3110

Image: An Atlantic puffin looks behind itself with its fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 340 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200 sec, ISO 640, hand-held

The Razorbills also brought food for their young although their catch was not as plentiful as the puffins.  The Razorbill nests were also aboveground and guarded by one of the parents while the other fetched the fish.  I was able to witness this Razorbill below leave and bring back food 3 times in a row!

Razorbills with fish Juky 7 8238

Image: Razorbill arriving to the nest with fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 260 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

The Common Murres were also very active in feeding their young with fish although they often brought back one larger fish and had to fight off other murres attempting to steal their food.  They scurried along in attempt to get to their aboveground nest and feed their chick.

Murre with fish July 8 3535

Image: Common Murre walking on the rocks with a fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held

They walked with a quickness that was surprising.  As this one jumped from rock to rock, I was able to catch it in many poses.

Murre with fish July 8 3518

Image: Common Murre landing on the rocks with a fish, Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 280 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held

It was hard to catch the actual feeding process as the chicks were often protected by the second parent.  In the case of the puffins, all the chicks were in underground burrows so we were not able to see them.  With the Razorbills and Common Murres, we often got a peek of the chicks but during the feeding process, the second parent typically covered the chick with a wing as other birds were always close by ready to steal the fish.

My settings for many of these images were not always ideal.  I should have had an aperture of f/8 or higher for many of the images since I was so close to the birds.  I was often shooting birds in flight further away and one of the above birds landed right in front of me.  In the excitement, I often didn’t change my settings or I didn’t have time.  Given the choice, I went for the shot instead of messing with the camera settings. 🙂

Intimate Moments

When fellow photographer, Guy, pointed out a Common Murre on Inner Farne Island in England, I did not expect that I would soon be witnessing the circle of life. I looked down and saw an light green egg with a hole in it.  At first, I was sad to see a hole in the egg, thinking something haåegg under its belly and squatted down.  We were so excited but realized that we had only 20 minutes before we had to be back on the boat to leave Inner Farne Island for the day.  Nothing was going to get me to budge from that spot until the boat left.  I adjusted my camera settings as best as I could in the sunlight and waited.  I knew I could run across the island to the boat in 5 minutes so I kept watch until the very end and was rewarded!

Murre and egg July 6 6514

Image: Common Murre and its egg. Inner Farne Island. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8.0, 1/640 sec, ISO 800, hand-held

For one quick instant, the murre looked down at its egg and decided to help the birthing process.  Unfortunately, it only helped a little before it covered the egg back up and I had to run to catch the boat.  Although I didn’t see the hatching process, I was on cloud 9!

I hated having to wait 21.5 hours to get back to the island, but the next day, I made a beeline for the murre and its newborn chick!!! The sun was as bright as could be and this was the best shot I could take of the chick.

Murre July 7 9330

Image: Common Murre and its newborn chick, Inner Farne Island. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 210 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO 500, hand-held

The chick didn’t move much that first day while I was watching it.  The parent preened the chick’s feathers and covered it up off and on. When the parent settled in on the chick, I moved away, eager to come back the next day.

On day 2 of the chick’s life, we had cloudy weather so I was able to get a nicer shot of the parent and the chick.  The baby seemed to have more vitality and energy and was now able to hold up its head!

Murre and chick July 8 6143

Image: Common Murre and its newborn chick, Inner Farne Island. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/11, 1/500 sec, ISO 800, hand-held

Soon the preening process began again and I saw a little bit of wing movement as the chick began to test itself and its body’s capabilities.

Murre and chick July 8 6133

Image: Common Murre and its newborn chick, Inner Farne Island. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held

As I stayed to watch these moments, I was lucky to see the second parent arrive and join in on the care of the chick.  At first, parent #2 watched the preening process.

Murre and chick July 8 6789

Image: Common Murres and their newborn chick, Inner Farne Island. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held

Then I saw the bond develop between both parents and the chick.  It was truly special moment.

Murre and chick July 8 6758

Image: Common Murres and their newborn chick, Inner Farne Island. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 210 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held

Parent #2 then got a few moments with the chick as parent #1 looked on.

Murre and chick July 8 6885

Image: Common Murres and their newborn chick, Inner Farne Island. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/8, 1/800 sec, ISO 800, hand-held

Sorting through images for this blog post warmed my heart.  I knew when I captured that first image that I was going to see something so simple but yet so intimate and magical.  I had many more to share but only selected a few that told the story.

Myakka River and Venice Beach, Florida

Alligator July 16 8353 with border

Image: American Alligator swimming in Myakka River, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 480 mm, f/6.3, 1/500 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held

The second evening in Sarasota was full of photo opportunities as Leslie and Albert introduced me to a couple more great locations for wildlife and landscape photography.  We started the evening in Myakka River State Park since I had expressed an interest to see an alligator!

Sarasota map

Their typical location for spotting these animals was on a bridge overlooking the Myakka River.  They had received more rain than normal in the past couple months so the bank where they typically saw 15-20 alligators was covered with water.  We walked around a bit and soon saw a juvenile alligator swimming peacefully in the calm water.

Alligator July 16 8319 with border.jpg

Image: American Alligator swimming in Myakka River, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 300 mm, f/6.3, 1/400 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held

He turned towards me and I got a couple profile shots as well, including the first image in this post.  I title that image as “I See You,” not for the alligator watching me, but for the dragonfly looking at the alligator.  At the time of taking the shot, I didn’t see the dragonfly.  It was a nice surprise when I reviewed the image on my laptop.  🙂

We drove around a bit more in the park in search of some alligators and came across a doe with her two fawn.  They were used to people and had no fear of me when I scrambled out of the vehicle to get a shot of them.  They paused for less than a second before resuming their grazing.  It was quite beautiful to see the white spots on the trunk. I typically choose an aperture greater than f/5.6 but it was very dark out and I did not want to increase my ISO above 1600 since it would introduce too much noise for my preference.  I also dropped the shutter speed to a lot lower than I am typically comfortable when hand-held, but I did not have much time to think since these fawn moved their heads very quickly and I was lucky to get a quick photo with the head up.

deer July 16 8410.jpg

Image: A fawn pauses from grazing in Myakka River State Park, Florida. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/5.6, 1/200 sec, ISO 1600, hand-held

As it got closer to sunset, we headed further south to Venice Beach along the west coast. There were plenty of clouds in the sky and we were hoping to have some of them light up with a variety of warm colors.  Unfortunately, the sun disappeared behind some clouds before it set so I opted to take some shots and convert one to black and white to highlight the beauty in the clouds.

Venice pier Juy 16 2698

Image: Venice Beach Pier, Florida. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 24 mm, f/16, 3 sec, ISO 100, on tripod

It contrasted well with the softness of the water and the lines of the pier.  I then practiced a shot that I have seen many times by photographers photographing piers.

Venice pier Juy 16 2711

Image: Venice Beach Pier, Florida. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 70 mm, f/16, 30 sec, ISO 100, on tripod

The symmetry of the pilings combined with the long exposure to blur the water creates a very peaceful image to me.  I was happy to get some of the color in the sky and played around with my composition, adding a frame to the image using the pilings.  Feel free to comment if you like one better than the other.  I’m undecided so far.

Venice pier Juy 16 2707

Image: Venice Beach Pier, Florida. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 55 mm, f/16, 25 sec, ISO 100, on tripod

I headed back to Indian Lake Estates yesterday evening for 2 weeks of down time (processing images from Europe, marathon training).  I will continue to post images when I can!

A Change of Scenes-Off to Sarasota

Braden Castle Pier July 16 2547

Image: Braden Castle Pier, Bradenton, Florida. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 26 mm, f/16, 13 sec, ISO 100, on tripod

I had my first break since the beginning of this adventure in May and visited my friends Leslie and Albert in Sarasota, Florida, about a two hour drive west of Artie’s house. I had met them last year while I was a volunteer photoguide for Arizona Highways Photoscapes. We had hit it off immediately and kept in touch. Leslie generously came to pick me up Sunday afternoon and we made the drive across central Florida to the beautiful west coast!  Despite some fatigue, we headed out that evening to start a couple days of some landscape photography. 

Sarasota Ringling bridge July 15 2508

Image: Ringling Bridge, Sarasota , Florida. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 28 mm, f/16, 30 sec, ISO 100, on tripod

They took me to Sarasota’s marina to capture the colorful sunset. The sun wasn’t in the ideal place at this time of year for sunburst photography, but I still had fun getting back into landscape photography, the first type of photography had I learned.  I enjoyed photographing the boats but had to balance keeping the boats in focus versus getting the nice blur of the water with the longer exposures.

Sarasota marina July 15 2494

Image: Sarasota marina, Florida. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 24 mm, f/11, 5 sec, ISO 1600, on tripod

We did a few shots of the city and the yachts during blue hour, the period of time during civil and nautical twilight when the light appears blue, well after the sun has set.  The city was still full of activity despite it being late on a Sunday evening around 8:00-9:30pm.

Sarasota marina July 15 2512

Image: Sarasota marina, Florida. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 24 mm, f/8, 30 sec, ISO 100, on tripod

We got up early the next morning to capture sunrise at Braden Castle Pier, and while the clouds were sparse, a few of them lit up just before the sun crossed the horizon.

Braden Castle Pier July 16 2590

Image: Braden Castle Pier, Bradenton, Florida. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 36 mm, f/18, 0.6 sec, ISO 100, on tripod

I played with various angles of photographing the pier and went for the iconic shot as well.

Braden Castle Pier July 16 2598

Image: Braden Castle Pier, Bradenton, Florida. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 35 mm, f/22, 0.6 sec, ISO 100, on tripod

We will explore a couple more places before I head back to central Florida tomorrow to get organized for the next trip to Memphis, Tennessee. We will be there for a couple days at the beginning of August for a photo conference.  If you are in the area, please check out the conference and come say “Hi!”

Shoot, Rock N’ Roll Photo Expo Information

Puffins in Blue

Puffin in blue July 3 8628

Image: Atlantic Puffin on Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 440 mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

As I begin to learn more about birds and photographing them, I am noticing the different personalities of each species. When I first saw photos of puffins from my friend Muriel, I was instantly drawn to them by their beauty and charm. 

Puffin in blue July 5 8024

Image: Atlantic Puffin on Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 460 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

What I didn’t realize was how enamored I would become of them. When I was on Hornøya Island in Norway for 3 days, at least half of my time was spent watching and photographing this one species.  My excitement grew even more when I learned how many puffins I would see on the Farne Islands in England.  When we disembarked from the boat onto Staple Island, the first bird we came across was the Atlantic Puffin!  It was squatting on a rock, resting in the sun.

Puffin in blue July 3 8611

Image: Atlantic Puffin on Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 440 mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

I could barely drop my backpack fast enough to squat and take its photo.  Because of the sunny weather, we were a bit worried that we had to photograph in midday when the islands were open.  Luckily, the direction the puffins sat worked well for sun angle and I was able to capture them with the deep blue sea as the background.  They constantly changed the position and angle of their heads so I often waited for the right angle to minimize shadows on the body.

Puffin in blue July 3 8595

Image: Atlantic Puffin on Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

I didn’t move from that location for a long time, capturing image after image of various positions.  I loved having images of them standing as well as sitting and even got one almost in a kneeling manner.

Puffin in blue July 3 8666

Image: Atlantic Puffin on Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 370 mm, f/8, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

When I took a photo of them with their head straight at me, I couldn’t avoid a shadow of their beak, but the way the eyes lit up was worth it.

Puffin in blue July 3 8590

Image: Atlantic Puffin on Staple Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 450 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

For almost all of the images above, I increased my aperture to f/7.1 or f/8 to increase the depth of field since I was fairly close to these birds and wanted more of the bird in focus.  Since it was sunny, my ISO was 400 and I adjusted my shutter speed to achieve the correct focus to avoid over exposing the whites of the bird.  Seeing these beauties from the first step on the island was a great indication of what was to come…

The Beauty of Farne Islands

Farne Islands July 8 2120

Image: Longstone Lighthouse, Longstone Island, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200 sec, ISO 800, hand-held

We made it back to the United States late last night after a whirlwind trip, exhausted after the past two weeks.  The trip back was long and thankfully uneventful, and I was able to sort through a few photos.  For 6 days last week, we made a visit to the Farne Islands off the northeastern coast of England.

Farne Islands map

Each morning around 9:30am, we boarded a boat with all our camera gear and lunches and took a tour around the Farne Islands.  It took the boat a half hour to get out to the islands, and another 30-45 minutes as the pilot guided us around several of the islands, starting with Longstone Island and Lighthouse, as shown above in the top photo.

Farne Islands map 2

The Farne Islands are most known for the large number of seabirds living on the various islands. Over 100,000 birds make these islands home and breed among the rocks and grassy burrows, including 23 species of seabirds and over 37,000 breeding pairs of puffins! We spent our time on two of the islands, Staple Island and Inner Farne Island.

Inner Farne island July 4 0455

Image: Inner Farne Island, England.  Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 38 mm, f/16, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

During the initial tour each day, we visited a colony of Atlantic Grey seals.  This colony is supposedly the 3rd largest in England and includes over 8,000 seals!  We spotted males and females as well as some young pups, as you can see by the black one hiding behind his momma below.

Seals July 4 2217

Image: Female Atlantic Grey Seal and pup on one of the Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 320 mm, f/8.0, 1/1250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

We spent 10 minutes each day observing the seals as they laid along the shore or swam in the waters.  The momma seal soon got bored with her visitors and laid back down in the sun. 🙂

Seals July 4 2120

Image: Female Atlantic Grey Seal on one of the Farne Islands, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 480 mm, f/8.0, 1/1250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

For 5 of the 6 days, we had bright sunny weather, a bad sign for bird photography in the middle of the day but great for sparkling blue water.  Locals we met on the island said that this was the longest stretch of sunny weather since 1976!!!  The sun brought us warm weather and great opportunities for scenic shots.

Inner Farne island July 4 4029

Image: Our boat waiting in the sea near Inner Farne Island, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/5000 sec, ISO 640, hand-held

Staple Island, our morning island, had a great rocky cliff and wall that provided great nesting locations for the Common Murre and various gulls.  As we passed by these cliffs in the boat, we could see and hear thousands of murres as they were nesting, fighting, copulating and tending to their chicks.

Staple island July 4 1897

Image: Wall of Common Murres on Staple Island, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/8.0, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

At the edges of Staple Island, there were rock formations known as the Pinnacles that made for great scenes as well as home to the murres and gulls.

Staple Island July 3 9885

Image: Common Murres on Staple Island, England.  Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 24 mm, f/16, 1/160 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

After viewing the islands from the boat, we were given 2-2.5 hours on each island to photograph the birds.  There was a path roped off around the center of Staple island to allow us to observe the birds without disturbing their nesting grounds. In the image below, the rocky cliffs were full of Common Murres, but Razorbills and European Shags also nested in this area.

Staple Island July 5 0485

Image: Common Murres, Razorbills and European Shags on Staple Island, England.  Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 24 mm, f/16, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

To hear the sounds of these birds and to see the level of activity, please click on the video below:

Some areas in the center of the island were more grassy than others, allowing for puffin  to dig burrows, as seen in the image below on the left .

Staple Island July 3 9934

Image: Common Murres, Razorbills and European Shags on Staple Island, England.  Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 35 mm, f/16, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

Our afternoons included a visit to Inner Farne Island from 1:15-3:45pm each day.  Arctic Terns nested along the docks, forcing us to wear hats to cover our heads as we walked up the path.  If you came too close to a nest, the terns reminded you by poking your head as they flew overhead.  Sometimes, even the width of the path was too narrow to provide safe passage, so we all got daily pokes.  Occasionally, the whole flock of terns flew up into the sky and I was able to capture this sight once.

Inner Farne island July 4 5638

Image: Arctic Tern colony in flight on Inner Farne Island, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

I typically made a visit to one of the rocky ledges were the puffins like to relax or stand before flying out to sea.

Puffins Inner farne July 4 0407

Image: Puffin colony on Inner Farne Island, England.  Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 70 mm, f/16, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

As I sort through many thousands of photos, I’ll try to post them over the next several weeks.  Each species we encountered was special in its own way.  There were many tender moments between breeding pairs as well as demonstrations of love for chicks.  It was sad to say good-bye to all the participants on Artie’s IPT, but I was impressed by all of their skills and amazing photography.

More information on Farne Islands: Farne Islands

Surprise with silhouettes

The past several days have been a whirlwind as we headed up north to Seahouses, England to begin 6 days of photography on the Farne Islands.  I haven’t been able to process more than a couple images from over 10,000+ images that I’ve taken.  I had already started on a few from our previous location on Bempton Cliffs, England and wanted to share these.

gannet silhouette June 29 9123

Image: Northern Gannet flying at Bempton Cliffs, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

The third morning that we were in Bridlington, we woke to sunny skies once again and Artie told the group that there wouldn’t be anything to photograph.  We all wanted to get out to practice and left him behind at the hotel to go back to sleep.  :-). He soon regretted that decision.  Peter Kes, our driver and one of the photographers, was out with us and showed me what he was working on–silhouettes!  I was immediately entranced by this! The winds were strong, coming from the northwest, which worked well with the sun for silhouettes.  The gannets seemed to float in midair as they attempted to fly into the wind.  When we stood to photograph into the sun angle but aim at the water, the birds were silhouetted nicely!

gannet silhouette June 29 9119

Image: Northern Gannet flying at Bempton Cliffs, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/22, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

We played with the settings a bit, switching from f/22 and 1/2500 sec to f/8 and 1/8000 sec to see the changes.   With f/22, the background of the water is in sharper focus and stands out more where as f/8 softens the background. This worked well in the image below to allow me to capture the feather in the mouth with greater clarity.

gannet silhouette June 29 8862

Image: Northern Gannet flying at Bempton Cliffs, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/8, 1/8000 sec, ISO 100, hand-held

I then switched to a shorter lens on my same camera to capture the scene a bit more.  I was able to show how many birds were flying in this area on the cliffs.  It was a bit chaotic at times, but beautiful nonetheless.

gannets silhouette 9414

Image: Northern Gannets flying at Bempton Cliffs, England.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 70 mm, f/22, 1/1600 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

I even played with switching to my full frame camera, Nikon D750, with the same lens to try out some shots with this setup.  The color of the image changed slightly depending on the time I took the image, as fog started to approach.

gannets silhouette 9289

Image: Northern Gannets flying at Bempton Cliffs, England.  Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 70 mm, f/22, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held

When the fog rolled in, we began shooting gannets in the mist.  Unfortunately, I haven’t looked at any of those images due to lack of time.  We all learned a very valuable lesson that weather changes very quickly and you never know what you might get. 🙂