Shetland Nature

Wildlife, Birding & Photography Holidays

Scottish Tourist Board 5 Star Wildlife Experience
Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2017
Call: +44 (0)1595 760 333

Gannets in Shetland Photo-Assignment

A unique ‘species specific assignment’ working exclusively on Shetlands Gannets led by Brydon Thomason & Richard Shucksmith.

  • Species specific Gannet assignment
  • Exclusivity of only four photographers
  • Expertise of two well known leaders
  • Five nights all inclusive accommodation
  • Exclusive & unique boat charter for Gannet feeding frenzy

With a wingspan just shy of 6ft, pristine white plumage with ink black wingtips, a beautiful yellow saturation to the head and an impressive dagger-shaped bill the Northern Gannets is not only Europe’s largest but arguably most attractive breeding seabird. Nesting in colonies usually numbering into the 10’s of thousand’s and occupying some of the continent’s most remote, dramatic and awe-inspiring sea cliffs and with the extraordinary ability to reach speeds of over 60mph plunge diving into the sea for their prey- the northern Gannet is a truly iconic species which offers exciting and inspirational opportunities for nature photography.

The remote coastline of the Shetland Isles is home to some of the most spectacular wave-exposed coastal scenery in the British Isles. Idyllically situated where the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea meet and fish stocks abound, Gannets thrive here. Shetland is home to a nationally important population of Northern Gannets, the majority of which breed on Noss (an uninhabited island) and Hermaness (the northern extremity of the British Isles) on Unst, both of which are National Nature Reserves dominated by towering sea cliffs and jaw dropping coastal scenery. The round the clock hustle and bustle roaring throughout these ‘seabird cities’ along with the raucous noise and the pungent smell of guano is truly breath taking.

The Location

Hermaness; the northern most extremity of the UK. There can be few more breath taking vistas than these wild and remote sea cliffs and stacks on the island of Unst. With the world famous Muckle Flugga light house providing a jaw dropping back drop and the colonies spanning for nearly a mile along the cliffs of this National Nature Reserve, all open and exposed to an unhindered Atlantic Ocean and skyline. The access ability across the reserve to this location, within half an hour of the accommodation further adds to its potential.

Noss; a small uninhabited island which rises sharply from the low sea level shore in the west to the 181m high sandstone cliffs, towering outward onto the elements of the North Sea to the east. In the region of 18,000 pairs breed here and it is perhaps best known from the foot of these iconic cliffs by boat, a spectacle that anyone to visit Shetland is advised not to miss.

These seabird cliffs are spectacular and a great place to find inspiration and creativity in your photography.

The Assignment / Workshop

Hermaness and Noss offer unrivalled photographic opportunities to create a portfolio of images covering the life of gannets. Each destination offers the opportunity to create very different images from locations, techniques and use of light;

  • Wide range of composition including portrait; birds on nest with chicks, soaring in updrafts
  • Landscape compositions, taking in the holistic atmosphere of cliffs and colonies
  • Gannets at sunrise/sunset to get the purest light
  • Diving gannets, exclusive boat charter for feeding frenzy
  • Action and interaction- aggregations from Great Skuas (despite their large size, gannets are often victims of ‘kleptoparasitism’ – these boat trips also offer exciting opportunities to capture gannets being harassed by skuas after an easy meal.

The Itinerary

A two to three day assignment working on creating a portfolio of images of Gannets would focus on two world renowned locations.

Hermaness – the image potential here is endless. Working predominantly from the cliff tops, most of the opportunities are from above, eye level and of the endless aerial activity of busy birds to and from the colonies;

  • Sunrise and sunset use of light
  • On the wing, soaring and gliding in updrafts and thermals
  • Creative techniques e.g. long exposure and movement of sea bellow colonies
  • Behaviour and interaction of birds at close range on nests
  • Use the dramatic sea cliff, stacks and lighthouse as breath-taking backdrop to seascapes

Noss – Similarly to the above, there is huge potential at this awesome location. Our main focus however here is by boat where we target the overwhelming spectacle of a feeding frenzy. This a tried and tested assignment, unique to our workshops as we are the only company to offer this to photographers in Shetland. There may also be opportunity to work on this spectacular location from the cliff tops above the colony.

With 100’s, often 1,000’s of gannets filling the skies, plunging squadron style into the sea at point blank range, this is a unique opportunity to ‘fill your boots’ with sequences of this very sought after photographic spectacle.

Booking – 2014 Holiday Dates

Fitness Level Required
Walks of up to three or four miles (maximum in a day) and at times over uneven terrain
Price: £1,375
Available as bespoke/one to one itinerary – please ask for details Available

Contact Us to Book

Contact us for more information or to enquire about alternative dates for your own exclusive/tailor-made holiday.

Telephone: +44 (0)1957 710 000 Email:

  • All boat trips are subject to weather availability
  • On booking please advise of any special requirements medical or dietry
  • Throughout the holiday some of the activities will potentially involve walks of up to three or four miles (maximum in a day) and at times over uneven terrain. There will require a reasonable level of fitness. We can also provide holidays at a more leisurly pace; please contact us for details

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