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I always try to use local guides if possible, because local guides have local knowledge and this saves valuable time. Brydon knows Shetland intimately and especially the local otters. Within an hour he had me in front of two otters. In two days I’d been within photographable range of 7 otters – there is no question I’d have achieved this without Brydon’s help. Oh and another thing: he’s a damned fine chap! Peter Cairns – Peter is a full time freelance photographer, whose images have won awards in several international competitions such as BBC wildlife photographer of the year and the GDT European photographer of the year. He was also a founding partner in the widely acclaimed ‘Tooth & Claw’ predator project and is a member of the ‘International league of Conservation Photographers’ and a founding director of both ‘Wild Wonders of Europe’ and ‘The Wild Media Foundation’.
After several unsuccessful attempts at otter photography over the years it was time to call in a professional so on my recent trip to Shetland I teamed up with Brydon Thomason who showed me how it’s really done! With an intimate knowledge of the northern isles, Brydon is well acquainted with a host of otter sites- in a matter of minutes at our first location he spotted our first adult. On my own I would no doubt have tried to get close to it there and then but Brydon assured me it was asleep on the shore so better to wait for it to come out to feed. Sure enough after an hour’s wait it emerged together with a cub and proceeded to feed in the calm water. Magical! Later he located another mother and cub at a second site, which proved to be the highlight of the day with an amazing encounter just a few metres away and some great shots were ‘in the bag’. But this was about far more than photography – I learnt a great deal of field craft skills over the two days and an awful lot about otters. If you want to see and photograph otters there can be few better. Many thanks, Brydon. Mark Hamblin – Mark has been a professional wildlife photographer since 1995, with a special interest in the natural heritage of the British Isles . His work has been widely published throughout Europe, and he is the author of three books. He is one of the founding members of Wild Media Foundation and his collaboration on the Tooth and Claw initiative has galvanized his belief that photographers have a crucial role to play in communicating nature’s stories.
In these days of instant information available to photographers- when, where and how to find them you could be forgiven for thinking “do I need a guide and a specialist tour”? Well, you might get away with it in some places, but if you go to Shetland to photograph Otters as I did last April I thought a guide would be a good idea and I couldn’t have picked a better one than Brydon, a born and bred Shetlander who knows the islands and it’s Otters better than anyone.
My first attempt was a success with three Otters seen and photographed, my second attempt was a success with three Otters seen and photographed at a different site and my third attempt was also a success with a single Otter catching a crab at close range; 100% success rate!
So, unless you fancy wandering around all the bays that Shetland has to offer in search of your own Otters for days then I would recommend Brydon to anyone who is thinking of going, enjoy. Steve Young – Professional photographer and columnist in Birdwatch and Outdoor Photography magazines. Overall winner of the 2010 British Wildlife Photography Awards.
Otters have long since been a species have I wanted to photograph and although I have had a few brief encounters have never managed anything great. A couple of colleagues mentioned Brydon’s name to me and to get in touch with him about my forthcoming trip to Shetland. Once there I meet up for 2 of the days with Brydon. The first day we did not have a lot of luck, however we thoroughly enjoyed the day and learnt so much by listening and watching Brydon. On the second day I think we saw in the region of 8-10 otters, with one particularly fantastic encounter with a mother and 2 cubs. I have to say Brydon’s local knowledge and enthusiasm is wonderful and anyone going to Shetland would be wise to get in touch with him, not only for otters but for all of Shetlands wildlife. Since my trip to Shetland I have since had a few of my own otter encounters on other locations and the experience of being out with Brydon helped enormously.
I spent three summers in Shetland in the 1980s, much of that time in the company of the legendary Shetland naturalist and fellow photographer Bobby Tulloch – so I thought I knew a thing or two about stalking and photographing otters. That was until I met Brydon Thomason, Bobby’s protegé from the isle of Fetlar. Brydon’s field skills are truly awesome, and next to him I felt like a clumsy oaf. Fortunately he’s also very polite and patient, so he’d never tell me that! There’s no doubt that I enjoyed far more picture-taking opportunities with Brydon than I ever could have on my own. I would have no hesitation in recommending his services. Chris Gomersall – Chris’s work has been recognised in various international competitions, most recently as winner of the GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2007. June 2001 saw the launch of his first major book ‘Photographing Wild Birds,’ published by David & Charles. More recently he acted as chief photographer and art editor on the monumental “Birds Britannica” by Mark Cocker, published by Chatto & Windus in 2005. His photography is probably best known through the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds where he had the enviable job of staff photographer for some fourteen years.
There is arguably no better place in Britain to view and photograph Otters than Shetland. But finding and especially getting close to these elusive mammals requires expert help and there is no one better at that than Shetlander Brydon Thomason. Brydon has grown up with “his” Otters and understands them better than anyone I know. I spent a week with Brydon during which we found Otters every day leading to some superlative photography. To have sat next to two young cubs just three hours from stepping off my flight from London was sheer magic. David Tipling – David is one of the most widely published wildlife photographers in the world. He has collaborated with some of the UK’s leading nature writers including Jonathan Elphick and Mark Cocker and has also enjoyed a long and close association with book publishing having been the author or commissioned photographer for more than 40 titles, working with Harper Collins, New Holland Publishers, Random House, Duncan Baird, Penguin, Dorling Kindersley and Mitchell Beazley to name a few. Sir David Bellamy has described David’s pictures as “windows of wonder” Shortly after an epic expedition camping on sea ice next to an Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica, Marie Claire Magazine named David one of the ten most adventurous outdoor photographers in the world. This same work on Emperor Penguins resulted in the European Nature Photographer of the Year Documentary Award. Other awards have included multiple wins in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature’s Best where most recently in 2009 David was awarded the Indigenous Cultures Award for his work on Mongolian Eagle Hunters. In 2008 he was named as one of the worlds top 50 wildlife photographers by Digital Photography Magazine.
Discussing my Shetland visit with a friend I mentioned that an opportunity to both see and photograph Otters was top of the list, immediately he recommended that I contact Brydon. I met Brydon early on the agreed morning and we set off at once in search of Otters. Brydon’s good humour is infectious and we were soon chatting away like old friends. In this relaxed manner he is able to improve your knowledge of Otters with ease. We set off along the coast with Brydon pointing out signs of Otter activity almost every few metres. After approx 45 mins he stopped to scan the far shoreline of the bay we had just entered and spotted our first Otter of the day. Our quiet and careful approach was soon rewarded by an extremely close encounter with a female catch and leisurely eat a Lump-sucker fish – a once in a lifetime photographic opportunity and fantastic wildlife encounter. Soon after with Brydon walking ahead to check the small coves and bays there wasn’t long to wait before our second encounter of the day. Again wonderfully close views – this time of a fine dog Otter. At times alert, then dozing, this male Otter kept us entranced for at least 20 minutes whilst providing many opportunities for the camera. My smiles were from ear to ear – two fabulous Otter experiences in the same day and some great photos. If you are serious about Otters give him a call – unreservedly recommended!! Nigel McCall
Richard Revels and I left Shetland on Thursday evening to enable us to be back home for the weekend. We both obtained a range of good images, and foremost good images of otters. Many thanks for all your help and assistance. I much enjoyed your company and greatly appreciated your professional advice and support. Without your guidance and assistance I would not have obtained good images of the otters; and I know Richard shares these thoughts. Before our trip with you we had failed to even find one! Thanks again. All best wishes. Thom. Professor Thomas Hanahoe PhD FRPS
The few days I spent with Brydon in blizzards in Shetland in March rates as some of my best wildlife encounters. He is a fantastic naturalist with knowledge, patience and a sense of humour which all added up to a memorable experience with Otters (my main target) and mountain hares and some great pictures.” Jean Manson – Edinburgh
I made a great decision choosing Shetland Nature for our trip to Shetland. Although early in the year, and therefore potentially low on wildlife sightings, I came away rewarded with many photographs. The otters in particular were stunning and I feel privileged to have been able to get so close to them. I know there is no way that this could have happened without the dedication and commitment of Brydon to help me tick the ‘photographs off Otter box’ in my portfolio. Having said that I think a return trip maybe in the offing as there is no such thing as the perfect shot! Thanks also to introducing me to Stealth Gear – its excellent quality gear and I know own a couple of pieces with some more on my wish list. Kevin Bedford – Yorkshire
Brydon helped us get into a position to take photographs we would simply never have managed on our own. His fieldcraft and patience combined with evident integrity and an obviously heartfelt enthusiasm for his subject matter and for his home islands made him an outstanding guide. Thank you for giving two bumbling amateurs some magical otter encounters! Steve and Karen Thomas – Bedfordshire
We knew that Shetland was The place to go to if we wanted to photograph Otters but we also knew it would be very difficult. With the help and knowledge we succeeded in enjoying some wonderful encounters and in taking some lovely pictures. A fantastic experience- we are booked to come back next year and we know that with Brydon’s knowledge, guidance and patience we will succeed with more pictures of Otters! Jorn and Hanne Wahlstrom – Denmark
We just wanted to say thank you for an amazing few days of otter watching and photography. We have seen and photographed otters before on many occasions but never at such close range and for such prolonged and unique encounters. To watch them hunting, playing and even sound asleep without them being aware of our presence was a real privilege. Your intimate knowledge of their behaviour and your sense of humour make for a great mix!
It is hard to imagine that we could have better encounters with wild otters than we had this summer with you but we will be back next year so that you can prove us wrong! Steve and Lorna
Ever since I saw an otter in Norway from a distance, my goal was to photograph this beautiful animal. I knew that it is very difficult to get into a reasonable proximity of this shy and fast animal. Internet research led me to Brydon. The very first phone call with him inspired me and I knew that he was the right choice.
The coming together with Brydon in Shetland exceeded my expectations. His passion and deep knowledge not only allowed me to come close to the beautiful animals and without disturbance but to get some nice shots and learn more about them. In addition, the time was with him fun and varied and we had just a good time. I had the feeling to be on the road with a friend who brings me the landscape and natural beauties of his home closer. Rudolf Hug – Switzerland
I was enthralled as Brydon guided me along the coastline, showing me every old and new sign of otter activity and then how his expertise really came to the fore as we closed in and got in some fantastic positions for photographing- without disturbing the animals. I have been looking for otters myself in Shetland on many visits to the Islands since my post as warden on Fetlar in 1969. Out of some 14 visits over the years my success rate with otters has been very limited, especially with photographing them. Since my last visit in 2009 Brydon made clear to me where I had gone wrong during all those years, and that was a lack of stealth, knowledge of the otters, their territories and most of all – field craft – in a few hours Brydon made it all change! In one day I had better results than my 14 visits to the Islands! Peter Switzer – Netherlands
I’ve had several photographic trips to the Shetlands over the past 10 years with the main focus on photographing otters. Before planning my most recent trip I came across Brydon’s blog and website. For anyone who has tried to photograph otters it is immediately obvious that Brydon not only knows otters and their behaviour, but also the sites they inhabit. You cannot fail to be completely bowled over by the quality of stunning photographs on the site. There is such variety of high quality images with shots of unique behaviour. I booked 2 days of guiding for my trip on a one to one basis. On my first evening Brydon met me at the ferry on Fetlar and we discussed plans for the next 2 days. We saw otters on both days and on both occasions Brydon managed to get me into fantastic photographic positions. On one occasion I was as close as I’ve ever been to a wild otter – photograph attached. The only disappointment was that my big lens was misted up with condensation and I couldn’t convert the encounter into crisp images. The 2 days were truly memorable. I learnt a tremendous amount over the 2 days and Brydon was great company. I would thoroughly recommend Brydon for anyone considering a trip to the Shetlands, especially to photograph otters! Richard Hopkins
23 otters – what a week!
I have been in contact with Brydon through his otter blog as I had the ambition of photographing these wonderful animals. After a couple of months of regular contact we planned a field trip for the first week of May. Little did I know that this would become one of my best photo trips so far. From the onset it clicked between Brydon and myself.
I was not looking for the highest number of shots made but for the perfect encounter. This became the “sport” for the week finding them, stalling them, taking the perfect shot (or at least I tried…) and disappearing without the animals ever knowing we were there! At moments the desire for the perfect shot could jeopardize our stealth, but Brydon always guarded the deal to leave without a trace, so left with the perfect encounter in mind.
Due to the very variable weather I was very happy that I was wearing my ‘Stealthgear’ (wind and water proof!). Fortunately for me this trip did not stop at the otter encounters: Risso dolphins, Hoopoe, Sea eagle and “stormy” Gannets. The local network that Brydon is part of made this trip special: From a great cup of tea with the park warden to a very special dolphin excursion. I recommend this experience to all photographers that would like the get sunburned and frostbite in the same week (that’s Shetland in early spring for you!) as those were the perfect ingredients for my fieldtrip with Brydon Thomason. Wim de Koning – photographer, The Netherlands.