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

Puffin Photo-Assignment

There are few birds better known than the Atlantic Puffin. What other species encapsulates such traits as beauty, charisma, excitement and comedy better? Riding out the long winter months in the open ocean, rarely in sight of land and through the toughest storms, Puffins are as hardy as they are beautiful. Arriving back on land to their underground cliff-top colonies in spring, they spend just a few months ashore to raise their young.

During spring adults, who pair for life, return to the same burrow year after year and begin rekindling courtship in April and are incubating eggs by mid-May. Usually by late June they are feeding young. The latter is of course a particularly busy time for the birds when their sole objective is catching crops of sand eels and returning to their hungry chick. This late period in the season also sees the arrival (and usually on mass), of sub adult and non-breeding birds who return to the colonies to socialise and ‘practise all things Puffin’. On some evenings and early mornings in late summer particularly, they can be seen in large gatherings along the cliff-tops.

To nature photographers this is a truly iconic and captivating subject that no matter how many images you take, whether an amateur or a professional, you just can’t help but keep shooting.

Shetland Locations

In Shetland there are three main colonies/locations, each of which will be targeted in this species specific assignment, which collectively offer an unrivalled opportunity to work on a unique Puffin portfolio of images;

Sumburgh Head – the southern extremity of the Shetland Mainland. This is a popular RSPB reserve with main road and footpath access right to the Lighthouse around the walled perimeter of this beautiful headland. Capturing images of Puffins on the sloping cliffs carpeted with sea pinks is a firm favourite here.

Fair Isle – perhaps Shetlands most popular and productive Puffin locality. There is something extra special about an assignment on an isolated, exciting and enchanting island and nowhere ticks that box better than Fair Isle. The main colony is just a few minutes’ walk from the comfort of the Bird Observatory which allows convenient and quick access to and from the main site to maximise opportunities at dawn and dusk.

Hermaness – the northern extremity of the British Isles. 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 from the cliff tops of this National Nature Reserve, all open and exposed to an unhindered Atlantic Ocean and skyline, making it in our view the best place in Britain to work on backlit and silhouetted birds at sunset. The access ability across the reserve to this location, literally within half an hour of the accommodation further adds to its potential.

The Assignment / Workshop

By working on all three of Shetland’s (and arguably Britain’s) best locations this itinerary is unique and offers an unrivalled photographic opportunity to create an exciting and diverse Puffin portfolio of images.

Each destination offers the opportunity to create different images through composition, different techniques and use of light. Example of possible images we will work on creating;

  • Various portrait composition from individual to groups of birds
  • Wide angle landscape compositions, taking in dramatic backdrops of cliffs & seascapes
  • Sunrise/sunset to get the purest light & silhouette/backlit evening (cloud cover depending)
  • Puffins in flight
  • Behaviour and interaction

The Itinerary

The day to day itinerary will be quite simple in general terms – we will be heading out early and staying out late, photographing Puffins! However there may well be an ‘opt out’ option available on some days, if for example an early morning start follows an ‘out till late shoot’ the previous evening. It is of course a Puffin Assignment however each of these locations offer awe-inspiring distractions which can be allocated a few minutes and frames here and there…

Booking – 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

View Terms & Conditions for booking