Monthly Archives: July 2012

Skokholm Island, Pembrokeshire

Another year comes and another trip to Skokholm passes. This year I had no particular photographic goals, so I was open to what ever opportunities came along. My arrival on the island was delayed by 8 hours due to a strong swell causing problems with dis and embarkation on the island.

With the late arrival on the island and dusk approaching early due to the cloudy weather, I decided photography would be delayed till the next day and I would concentrate on trying to get a surround sound recording of the Manx Shearwaters that would come in at night to feed their chicks and rotate the brooding duties with their partner. I headed off to the area around the Lighthouse and set up the microphones on the end of a long lead. Amazingly the first Shearwater started calling from a burrow next to me at about 9.30pm, well before it was fully dark. After seeing  one of the Short eared owls from Skomer flying over on a rare visit at 10.30pm, it wasn’t until about midnight that the calls from the Shearwaters started to increase. Typically my less windy position at 10.00pm became windier and a few changes in location were required. The calls reached a peak at about 2.00am, but with the rain starting to fall at 3.00am, I packed up the gear, promising myself a lie-in in the morning. Hear the Manx Shearwaters below:

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Waking up after a bit of a lie-in, a quick check of the weather by looking out of my bedroom window showed that I hadn’t missed much. Low cloud and mist with poor visibility and frequent, heavy misty rain showers with windy gusts had arrived overnight. Visibility was down to about 50 metres, so it was an easy decision to concentrate on getting breakfast together instead of trying to get photographing.

 

The weather didn’t improve much for the next few days and photographic opportunities were limited. We received a message that our departure would be delayed for an extra 3 days due to incoming high winds. If we didn’t want to stay the extra 3 days on top of our original departure date, we would have to leave the next day; 2 days earlier than our original departure time. Unfortunately work commitments forced an early exit, so an enjoyable trip on a RIB back to the mainland at high speed was quite a nice way to end the trip. Typically the weather got better over the next few days, but the high winds forecast did arrive to affect the sailings. I’ll be back next year, so missing a few days doesn’t matter.

Deer Park, Martin’s Haven, Pembrokeshire

With a break of a day between my few days of tuition and my own planned visit to Skokholm Island, I had the chance to take a few images for myself. The winds were quite high, which affects the sailing to both Skomer and Skokholm, so after a day packing, cleaning and generally getting my gear packed for the trip to Skokholm, I set off to Deer Park, the headland above Martin’s Haven, where the boat to Skomer and Skokholm departs from. I wanted to check out the swell and general wave conditions of the sea. My departure time to the island had been put back by 8 hours already and I was concerned that I wouldn’t get out the next day.

It can be a bit fustrating at times when the weather generally looks okay, but the sea conditions are too difficult to get a safe transfer to and from the island. Matin’s Haven is very sheltered and the sea nearly always looks calm. It is a different story on Skomer and especially Skokholm. I have found myself a few times in the past standing on the cliff top at Deer Park, looking out to sea and thinking that the weather is great and the sea doesn’t look that rough. A good indication of the sea conditions is looking at how many Tankers are moored up sheltering from the sea and wind conditions. Only a few and it isn’t that bad, more and it’s going to get rough! There were quite a few this time, so it looked likely that my departure was going to be delayed.

The sea doesn’t look that bad in the photo above, but the swell was about a few metres!

Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

 

I was lucky that on my first attempt to get out onto Skomer for some 1-2-1 tuition with a client, we succeeded. Due to the poor weather forecast, the number of visitors trying to get onto the island was low with only 39 visitors. On a normal day it is closer to about 200 visitors. We were able to take advantage of the extra space and spend some time learning the habits of the birds, plus it was easier for me to teach without the crowds of people hanging about. The high winds made attempting flight shots almost impossible and even though the wind shifted during the day, it never came from behind us to slow the birds down on landing.

The challenge I set my client was to think differently and to try and come up with an image of the Puffins that was from a different perspective. The results were pretty good I thought. The images here are a few of the 16 images or so that I made as examples to show my client. They may not be competition winners, but there was a nice variation to them I liked.

Our second attempt to get out onto the island failed due to high winds, so we resorted to some landscape images of Marloes Sands instead. I didn’t make any images though. I was hoping that the weather would change as the next day I had my Skomer Day course and five photographers travelling down to get some Puffin pictures.

The next morning was a bit of a roller coaster ride in trying to get the group informed of what was happening with the sailings. Would we go? What time was the sailing going? Would the 12.00 pm sailing happen as planned? When would we have to head back? After a flurry of phone calls and text messages to the group with a request to arrive an hour earlier than planned, followed by a message to say take it easy as the 12.00 pm sailing was going after all, we finally got out onto the island. For first time visitors it can be a bit overwhelming and the group were amazed as to how close the birds came to you. Super telephotos definitely not required!

On the way back to the island departure point we had a chance to warm up a bit as it had cooled off by the Puffins, plus we were hoping to photograph the little or short eared owls. Unfortunately there were no owls within photographic range. Overall it was a great few days on and around Skomer, but now it was time for myself and a day or so before I was heading out to Skokholm Island for a few days to photograph and record the birds.