Wildlife photography trip to Shetland

Recently I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity, through my godfather, to spend a week working with award winning wildlife photographer Richard Shucksmith who lives and works on the Shetland Isles.

Richard photographs a variety of the diverse wildlife but primarily focuses on otters and seabirds which I was able to photograph in my time there; we spent most of our time on a little island called Noss which is completely uninhabited apart from 2 wardens and thousands of sea birds including gannets, puffins and guillemots.

I especially enjoyed photographing the puffins as they were very curious and would actually come up towards you; in the photo below I was actually shooting with a 10mm fisheye!

Richard does a lot of work both photographing otters and helping keep track of all the different families for conservation, I was fortunate to be able to get close enough to photograph them on a number of occasions which is not easy as they are extremely well camouflaged and have a really good sense of smell. The most exciting for me was when a male snuck up on a sleeping female... she quickly saw him off!

Richard told me that the local fisherman have real problems with the otters because they climb aboard their fishing boats in the harbours to eat the scraps of fish, then fall asleep somewhere and wake up when the boat is out at sea. Apparently the last person who gets inside the boat has to deal with the angry otter... not something I envy as they have been known to take people’s fingers off!

One time when Richard and I were waiting by an otter Holt we were lucky enough to spot a Mother and calf porpoise feeding along the sound. There were also sightings of killer whales while we were there, but unfortunately I did not get the chance to see any. I hadn’t realised before travelling that it was possible to see Killer whales, but there is an abundance of seals which they feed on during the summer months, one of which, a common seal also popped up very close to us as if to say hello whilst we were watching the porpoises.

Because like me Richard uses Nikon gear I was able to use some of his lenses whilst photographing. I primarily used a NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4 on a Nikon D300 whilst he used a 600mm f/5.6 on a full frame Nikon D3. I found the 200-400mm versatile for the bird life because it enabled me to follow the birds from quite far out and still get shots as they landed. I did find that it was slightly softer wide open compared to the 600mm which would be expected, however it did mean that to get really sharp images I needed to stop it down which then meant a slower shutter speed or higher aperture which wasn’t ideal.

Bertie Lumsden
Park Cameras Showroom Assistant

You can see more of Richards work at: http://richardshucksmith.com/

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