The Tipling, Tesni, Thomason Tour

– Guided by Brydon Thomason, David Tipling & Tesni Ward

Tour Overview

An exciting new collaboration combining the expertise and leadership of David Tipling, Tesni Ward and Brydon Thomason, inspired by a lifetime spent among the islands and their wildlife.

With over 25 years’ experience leading photo-tours on Shetland, with more than ten of them with us, David is no stranger to the islands and we are thrilled to have Tesni join our team for a second year on this exciting tour. Whilst all camera users will receive full guidance and support, we have two OM System specialists on board.

Showcasing the very best of Shetland’s spectacular wildlife from waders to seabirds, this tour visits the best locations. They include Sumburgh Head, Noss, Hermaness and Fetlar. One of many highlights will undoubtedly be the exhilarating opportunity to photograph diving Gannets at very close range on our exclusive charter to Noss NNR with ‘Shetland Seabird Tours’. For many though, the star attraction (and our signature species), is the Otter.

To facilitate photographing this difficult species, we pair photographers off, rotating through the week so that everyone enjoys a day working around tide times to search for, stalk and learn about these marvellous mammals in the hope of good photo opportunities. This is one of the many key benefits to multiple leaders and expertise, an assignment that is not possible in larger groups.

The itinerary is kept flexible so we can take advantage of the best opportunities in optimum weather. Flexibility also allows us to take advantage of the unexpected as during summer there is a decent chance of Orca, although they are far from guaranteed, we regularly connect with these awesome sea mammals. Connected via various local networks, news travels fast which increases our chances of success.

Our group size of just eight allows us to focus on a hands-on guiding approach with a guest to guide ratio never higher than four to one and often less to allow tuition, technical support and creative inspiration.

The importance of fieldcraft and an understanding of behaviour are fundamental to how we lead and work with our subjects. Ensuring wildlife is not disturbed during the taking of pictures is important to us. There are few better feelings when photographing Otters as an example and being able to leave them undisturbed, oblivious that we were present.

Key points

  • Leadership and expertise of three esteemed photo-tour leaders
  • A day concentrating on otter photography – guests paired off from the main group with Brydon.
  • A boat charter for gannet feeding frenzy photography.
  • Develop and hone field craft skills and subject knowledge.
  • Learn how to get the best from your camera.
  • Low guest-to-guide ratio.

Accommodation; split over two bases to maximise opportunities and logistics to suit locations and subjects. Sumburgh Hotel in Shetland’s South Mainland and Fetlar in the North Isles. *Note on Fetlar guests will be accommodated at two venues, Gord guest house and exclusive use of their self-catering property nearby.

2024 Dates

  • Wednesday 29th May to Wednesday 5th June, 2024
  • Thursday 6th June to Thursday 13th June, 2024


This tour prioritises visits to the very best locations in Shetland such as Sumburgh Head, Noss and Hermaness. It also offers the exhilarating opportunity to photograph diving Gannets so close you will feel the splash from their dive. Perhaps the star attraction is our signature species the Otter. Brydon is a world-leading expert at tracking and photographing this charismatic animal. Having studied them all his life, his local knowledge of the islands Otters is unrivalled. Our Otter assignments will be structured around tide times and on days when logistics work most favourably to suit group assignments. To maximise opportunities our day-to-day itinerary remains flexible. The following day to day itinerary is therefore a general overview.

And, always during summer, there is a chance of Orca! We successfully connect with this awesome sea mammals on most photography tours – wired into the grapevine, there is an excellent community following these and other cetaceans so, if they are around, we’ll hear! If it is logistically possible, we do our best to find them.

Day 1

Arrive on Shetland via ferry or plane, our meet and greet will be in the Sumburgh Hotel at 6.30pm. As we get acquainted, we will enjoy discussing the week ahead, presenting an overview of species and locations. After dinner, weather allowing there will be an option for an evening shoot at nearby Sumburgh Head NNR.

Accommodation: Sumburgh Hotel (Mainland Shetland)

Day 2

After breakfast we enjoy the first of today’s two exciting seabird assignments with a visit to Sumburgh Head. Here, Puffins amongst Thrift is our target, but there are also some good opportunities with many other species including Fulmar, Kittiwake, Shag, Guillemot and Razorbill and possibly Twite. Late morning we head off for a picnic lunch, before heading north to Lerwick. Here at the harbour we will embark for an exclusive boat charter to the spectacular seabird cliffs of Noss. We will witness the extraordinary Gannet feeding frenzy, where thousands of birds swirl overhead and dive after fish right next to the boat. Diving shots will be possible with a wide-angle lens! Opportunities will abound during this cruise with Gannets and auks nesting on Noss’s beautifully sculpted sandstone cliffs and we will be on the lookout for cetaceans such as Minke Whale and Harbour Porpoise.

Accommodation: Sumburgh Hotel (Mainland Shetland)

Day 3

This morning we leave straight after breakfast bound for Fetlar. We will aim to get up to the island as soon as possible so we can sample some of the opportunities the island offers. They include a fabulous site for bathing Great Skuas. A nearby beach is often productive for photographing Arctic Skua and Arctic Terns and we will look for our first Red-necked Phalaropes, before heading to our guest house our base for the next three nights.

Accommodation: Fetlar

Day Four

Over days four, five and six we shall run our Otter Assignments which may also mean the order of the itinerary may vary to suit logistics, making sure everyone visits each location.

Here on this ornithologically renowned island, Red-necked Phalarope will be a primary focus. Home to over 90% of the British breeding population, this is an island specialty. Based here, we have both early morning and evening opportunities as options for these charismatic little shorebirds. Though they have long left the island now, Fetlar was also the site of Britain’s only record of Breeding Snowy Owl during the 1960’s and 1970’s and with good densities of other northern specialties such as Whimbrel, Great and Arctic Skua and Red-throated Diver, it is little wonder Fetlar is so well known among naturalists and wildlife photographers.

Accommodation: Fetlar


While island hopping today, we will be on the lookout for cetaceans during ferry crossings. Our destination is Unst and the world-renowned Hermaness National Nature Reserve – the most northerly headland in the British Isles. With World class sea cliffs, thousands of seabirds, sea stacks and the Muckle Flugga lighthouse it is a breath-taking site and the jewel in Shetland’s crown. Photographic opportunities will include the ability to capture seabirds such as Great Skua, Gannet and Puffin among the grandeur of Hermaness. Some of the sea stacks covered in Gannets are very photogenic. The walk out across the reserve follows a boardwalk along which we may enjoy many opportunities for Great Skua, possibly Golden Plover, Skylark and Common Snipe.

Accommodation: Fetlar

Day Six

Today we head back south. After a last look at Fetlar we head down to the ferry and sail for Yell possibly stopping at one or two sites here to mop up on birds we may have missed. If time allows we will head to Eshaness for lunch. These brooding basalt cliffs are often referred to as the most photogenic in Shetland. Fulmars wheel within touching distance and we may get an opportunity to photograph flying Ravens.

Accommodation: Fetlar

Day Seven

Today we return to Lerwick where we catch the ferry to Bressay, from where we will be ferried by zodiac across to spectacular Noss, a National Nature Reserve. Here we will hike to the cliffs where Puffins if they are ashore can be photographed at close range. The Noup of Noss is one of the World’s great seabird cities and is as spectacular from the top as it was from below. A fitting end to our week.

Accommodation: Sumburgh Hotel

Day Eight

Departures after breakfast – airport transfers included.

Additional Information

A good level of fitness and agility is required for this trip – some parts of the itinerary involve a fair amount of walking, averaging five miles or occasionally up to 10 miles a day – particularly on Hermaness and Noss where there are some steep uphill sections to our routes. 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, even a steady hand offered if crossing precarious seaweed covered rocks – we take our time to make sure you get into the best possible locations, in the safest possible manner.

What do I need to bring?

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

  • Warm clothes (layers), hat, gloves, waterproof coat and trousers, sturdy walking boots/footwear all recommended and also try to avoid bright colours.
  • Spare camera body
  • Telephoto/zoom lens – optimum would be 400 or 500mm however 200 or 300 2.8 with Tele-converter also suitable.
  • Wide angle/zoom lens for landscape
  • Tele converters
  • Tripod – not essential depending on weight of large lens Memory cards and backup storage device
  • Spare batteries and charger
  • Less important but useful if you have it: 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.

Accommodation and food

To maximise our chances between locations, logistics and comforts as well as minimising travel time, we use two different venues. Sumburgh Hotel offers the perfect base for arrival and departure logistics whilst is also perfectly situated for access to Sumburgh Head and just 25 minutes to town.

Gord Guest HouseFor best logistics in the north isles we are based at Gord Guest House, (with additional capacity in exclusively booked house) on Fetlar. With ensuite rooms/private bathroom. This gives us unique opportunities to target Red-necked phalaropes as well as being just a 25 minute ferry crossing to Yell or Unst with good ‘home cooking’ style meals.

Alcoholic drinks at accommodation are not included and no single supplements are charged.

Booking – Holiday Dates

Principal Tour Guides
Fitness Level Required
Walks of up to five miles (maximum in a day) and at times over uneven terrain
Price: £2,975
2024 Dates
Wednesday 29th May to Wednesday 5th June, 2024 Available
Thursday 6th June to Thursday 13th June, 2024 Available

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.
  • 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