Shetland’s Simmer Dim Nature Photography

Tour Overview

Shetland Nature’s unique wildlife photo-tour, showcasing the very best of the islands spectacular wildlife, during the most special period of the summer, known as the ‘simmer dim’. Written by a native Shetlander with over 30 years experience of the islands and their wildlife – led by esteemed local guides for an unparalleled Shetland experience.

Holiday overview at a glance:

  • Leadership and expertise of multiple guides
  • Designed for just six-eight photographers
  • Group rotations through itinerary – track & photograph Shetland’s otters, two guests each day
  • Unique opportunities to photograph northern speciality breeding birds from purpose built hides
  • Boat charter for gannet feeding frenzy photography opportunities
  • Sunrise/sunset opportunities to capture inspiring landscape images
  • Develop and hone field craft skills and subject knowledge

2023 Dates:

The itinerary

This tour prioritises assignments at the very best locations such as Sumburgh Head, Noss and Hermaness but goes well beyond with the exhilarating opportunity to photograph diving Gannets at point blank range from a boat. Arguably however, the star attraction (and our signature species) is the Otter. To facilitate the chance of this notoriously difficult species photographers are paired off on assignment with an additional guide on ‘otter rotations’ throughout the week.

Led by photographers with intimate knowledge of the islands and their wildlife the itinerary is structured in such a way that guests get the best opportunities, with the best wildlife at the best times. With this in mind the itinerary needs to remain flexible, where logistically possible. Weather, (for better or for worse) may for example change plans, be it for a sunrise or sunset shoot or a reschedule sailing time of boat trip.

And always during summer, there is a decent chance of Orca. We have successfully connected with this awesome sea mammals on most recent Simmer Dim tours – if we receive news and it is logistically possible, we do our best – for this one, we hope for a bit of luck!


Arrive in Shetland and transfer from airport to Sumburgh Hotel. We will meet in hotel reception at 18.30pm and once acquainted we enjoy dinner and talk through the week ahead, the wildlife, locations and opportunities that lie ahead.

Accommodation: Sumburgh Hotel


We will travel to Lerwick where we catch the ferry to Bressay from where we will be ferried across the Noss National Nature Reserve where spend the day walking around the seabird colony. Here where we will concentrate primarily on puffins and gannets and will enjoy a wide range of shooting opportunities for both species.

Return to Sumburgh hotel for dinner.

Accommodation: Sumburgh Hotel


Today we again travel to Lerwick where we will embark for our seabird boat charter to the cliffs of Noss and its spectacular seabird cliffs. The charter will headline the extraordinary Gannet feeding frenzy, where thousands of birds swirl overhead and dive after the fish we through in, just meters away from you.

We will also photograph an array of wildlife including Guillemots, Razorbill, Kittiwakes, Puffin and Shag as well as surprisingly up-close and personal Atlantic Grey Seals.

After the boat trip, we will make are way up to Unst where we will be based for the next four nights. Along the way we may take a diversion or route for landscapes and wildlife.

Accommodation: Saxavord resort


The program today takes us to the small neighbouring island of Fetlar. This island is known as ‘The Garden of Shetland’, from its rich soils and diversity of habitats. Famed for once having breeding Snowy Owls (from 1967-1975) it is perhaps even wider recognised as a summer stronghold for Red-necked Phalarope. We will spend time hoping to see and photograph these charismatic little shore birds as well as looking out for other attractive species such as Arctic Skua, Whimbrel and Golden Plover.

Today we begin the first of our ‘otter rotations’ by taking two (or three) from the main group on assignment to search for, learn about and work on this iconic animal. Guests experience an element of exclusivity with our specialist guides.

*We repeat this each day until everyone has enjoyed this specialist and exciting opportunity.

Accommodation: Saxavord resort


Today we visit the world renowned Hermaness National Nature Reserve – the most northerly headland of the British isles. With the heady blend of its breathtaking sea cliffs, thousands of seabirds, sea stacks and lighthouse it is often described as the most spectacular seabird colonies in the world. Target species here are Gannets, Great Skua and Puffin with a wide range of shooting opportunities for each. The 30 minute walk out across the reserve follows a board walk access route along which we will enjoy many opportunities for Great Skua, Golden Plover, Skylark and Common Snipe may also be possible here.

Owing to how spectacular this location is, this will be the first of multiple visits during the week.

Accommodation: Saxavord resort


We will spend the day on Unst. Great Skuas will be the main focus for the morning, with two different shooting locations. Each location offers different opportunities from bathing a site (where 100’s congregate), to a moorland headland with sea cliff backdrop. At both sites behavioural interactions, flight and portraits will be offered. We will also target breeding waders and perhaps some time photographing eiders, terns, seals and breeding shorebirds. Finishing off with a visit to the Keen of Hamar, which has a variety of rare plants including the Edmondston’s Chickweed, which grows nowhere else in the world.

Accommodation: Saxavord resort


Leaving Unst, we begin our journey south, to Sumburgh. We spend the morning photographing an amazing Black Guillemot colony where close by we will also work on Arctic Terns at a remote and picturesque coastal location. Following this we will drive down to Sumburgh where we will visit Sumburgh Head, another great seabird colony where we will be photographing puffins, kittiwakes, guillemots and all the other seabirds there.

Over dinner in the evening we reminisce as we enjoy highlights of the week, the favourite locations and the images and experiences we have enjoyed.

The tour comes to an end after breakfast the following morning however after dinner we say our goodbyes and bid you a fond farewell – till next time!

Accommodation: Sumburgh Hotel


Departures after breakfast – airport transfers included.

Client Image Gallery

The Wildlife

Special target birds in our itinerary will include arctic and great skuas (better known locally as Allan’s and bonxie’s), puffin, gannet, black-guilemot (or tystie as we call them) many species of breeding waders including curlew, golden and ringed plover (many with chicks). On Fetlar we may be lucky enough to find the rare red-necked phalaropes as they feed on a freshwater loch. Weather permitting; we shall make boat trips out to the gannet colonies at Noss or Muckle Flugga where we have innovated exciting opportunities to photograph gannets at their very best!

Time will be allocated to each of these species so that photographers can enjoy time to work on one species at a time, maximizing potential for producing exciting and creative images.

Purpose built bird hides are one of many ways we demonstrate how hard we work for photographers and the images they create. Brydon has created a niche in the islands by innovating and building hides for several of Shetland’s most iconic breeding birds, some of which feature in this itinerary but may vary from season to season. Guests will be rotated in two’s or three’s to work on both arctic and great skua in hides designed especially for each species where they will enjoy exciting opportunities to photograph these fascinating species at bathing pools. There is huge potential here for inspiring behavioural images as birds bathe interact and often disputes and fights breakout.

Otters are very much a specialty of ours and the experience and images our guests enjoy is simply unrivalled. By rotating guests in two’s throughout the itinerary all photographers have the exclusivity to work on Otters with us by learning the vital field craft and skills needed to photograph these fantastic creatures.

This exhilarating opportunity to learn about and enjoy the opportunity to photograph wild otters is very often the highlight in an already action packed, unique and rewarding itinerary. With our field experience and local knowledge we have an excellent chance of delivering this “holy grail” to our clients.

Landscape photographers will have the opportunity to capture inspiring and dramatic images with Richard, whose images of Shetland’s breathtaking wilderness are renowned. Using the very best of the magical ‘mid simmers dim’ light, often throughout the night, Richard will offer opportunities to stay out late or get in early starts for guests keen on landscape photography.

Moderate fitness and agility level is required for this trip – some parts of the itinerary involve a fair amount of walking, perhaps up to five miles a day. Note especially on Otter tracking days the terrain and pace can be challenging however there is always the offer to help with carrying gear – something that we regularly do for guests when working on otters.

What do I need to bring?

Warm clothes (layers), hat, gloves, waterproof coat and trousers, sturdy walking boots/footwear all recommended and also avoid bright colours.

Best suited for DSLR camera equipment and any or all of the following recommended:

  • Spare camera body
  • Telephoto/zoom lens – optimum would be 400 or 500mm however 200 or 300 2.8 with Teleconverter also suitable.
  • Wide angle/zoom lens for landscape
  • Tele converters
  • Tripod (bean bags can be provided)
  • Memory cards and backup storage device
  • Spare batteries and charger
  • Filter kit
  • Cable release
  • Binoculars
  • Laptop – very useful for sharing/showing images if opportunity allows

Please do not hesitate to ask if any of the above items of kit/clothing might be an issue and we will help and advise on alternatives.

For Nikon users kit and or lenses may be available for hire.

Your Accommodation

The first two nights and the last night will be spent at the Sumburgh Hotel, which is convenient for arrival and departure, whether by air or by sea, and for exploring the Shetland mainland. The rest of the holiday will be based at the Saxa Vord resort on the isle of Unst which offers a superb base for logistics and access to our north isles shooting locations.

Guest Reviews:

Hello Brydon
I really enjoyed my trip with you and David.
The people skills of the both of you make everybody feel very welcome and that can make or break a trip. There are very few companies that deliver what they promise in their brochures or on their website but you do more than that. Having been on a Shetland trip before showed me how much your company stands out. Never had I thought to see wild otters this close in their environment. It was only possible because of your tracking skills and great knowledge about otters. The choice of taking only two people at a time to minimise disturbance works very well. So while some two people are off to find otters others of the group are photographing birds from a hide near the bathing pool of the arctic skuas. This hide gave good opportunities for getting pictures of all kinds of bathing birds. I also enjoyed Hermaness for photographing sea birds.
The combination of seeing and photographing otters and birds make this trip stand out from other trips offered on Shetland
If at all possible I will be back to Shetland to do another trip with you.
Keep up all the good work
Dick van der Lely

Hi Brydon and Team. Sorry I’m slow replying but 6000 pics takes me a lot of sorting! I’m probably not ruthless enough yet but I’m still trying to discover what I think makes a good pic. Thank you for a great Holiday, which also gave me great opportunities to find, see and photograph various wildlife that I have failed to find for years. I learnt a lot re technique. With the chance to argue out the pros and cons with experienced photographers my pictures clearly improved during the week. A special thank you to Brydon, the Otter-Spotter, for the fantastic opportunities he consistently found for us all. James Hogg

Booking – Holiday Dates

Fitness Level Required
Walks of up to five miles (maximum in a day) and at times over uneven terrain

2022 Dates
2023 dates and prices ready Contact us for details

Contact Us to Book

Private Tour Options: This holiday can also be arranged exclusively for private booing for couples, families or small groups.

Contact us for information and cost proposal for your own exclusive/tailor-made holiday. Email: [email protected]

Additional holiday information:

  • Read about the hotels we use – view our hotel providers.
  • All meals, accommodation, guiding fee’s and excursions as well as ferry fares and transport are included in package cost.
  • All boat trips are subject to weather availability.
  • Not included in cost are items of a personal nature or hotel bar tabs nor is travel to and from Shetland included.
  • No single supplement charged.
  • On booking please advise of any special requirements medical or dietary.
  • 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. A reasonable level of fitness is advised however this is run at a leisurely pace. We can also provide holidays at an even more leisurely pace; please contact us for details.
  • Please note that all itineraries are subject to change but guests will be advised in advance should it be necessary to make any major changes.

View Terms & Conditions for booking