Subject matters: Puffins

Puffins are funny little birds and I had always wanted to go and photograph them. I finally did so last year and have just got round to processing the RAW files.

They took a lot of travelling to get to as these particular puffins live on a remote island called Staffa that is only accessible by boat.


I lugged my Nikon D300 and 80-200mm F2.8 ED lens (weighing in over 2kg combined) all the way there just to get these shots. Given the effort required to get there I wasn’t going to skimp. It turned out to be a wet and miserable day, so these images took a bit of processing to brighten them up (along with my lens needing a service after getting very wet!) but of the several dozen images I had time to shoot I got a good range different compositions.


It’s easy to take the same image 50 times in these situations, heck I was happy just to get one good image! but I wandered around the cliff tops to get some different angles to try and show the character of these funny little birds.


What struck me first is that they are tiny! Looking at the image Exif data, these were generally shot at the long end of the lens from only 3 or 4 metres away, with the crop factor of the D300 that meant a lot of magnification was taking place between subject and sensor. I shot the whole set almost wide open at f4 which gives a nice shallow depth of field at close range ensuring the subject jumps out from the background. This gave shutter speeds around 1/160th second which is about right for freezing your subject but still expressing some movement in the image (something I learned from motorsport photography).


It was easy to get within a couple of meters of them as they very trusting birds. Apparently the presence of Humans scares away the puffin’s predators so they all came out for a look when we arrived. Puffins often have a look of sadness in their eyes in still photographs, but seeing them in person they are very cheerful, playful little things.


I don’t often to bright subjects and colourful subjects (If fact life of any kind is usually absent!) but I like this set.


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