Having just returned from a very successful workshop in the eastern Pyrenees. I had a few days before heading to the Saltee islands. Great Saltee has, in recent years, become a favourite spot for photographers from the continent. During my workshops there over the years, I have met many photographers who have made long journeys to spend time among the masses of seabirds that breed on the islands each year.
Having had quite a settled period of weather for some weeks our journey down was indeed an extremely windy one with the threat that it might not be possible to get out let alone land on the island. However, the late afternoon saw a reduction in the strength of the wind and we were able to have an evening session on the island.
Changes in the weather brought large numbers of puffins in to land to the delight of the group. Although unsettled conditions can often prove more challenging in terms of getting on and off the islands, they can often produce unusual conditions providing excellent opportunities for photos that would not usually be possible in more typical conditions.
I was also testing Nikon’s latest 300mm f/4 E PF ED VR. It was a pleasant change carrying a lens so light compared to my usual 300mm 2.8. Many of the images on this trip were shot with this extremely light lens; an excellent choice if you are travelling abroad. I found the autofocus very responsive and it performed well on many tricky compositions delivering superb sharpness.
Wind direction on the first evening was to our advantage and our time at the gannet colony was enjoyable and productive. There were many opportunities for flight shots. Some birds were still in the process of nesting building, and others were still sitting.
The evening session on the second day was ideal for flight shots of smaller birds. They are extremely fast fliers and a match for the best autofocus systems on any pro level camera and lens. The wind never really abated that much during our time there, but it did produce powerful swells that added an extra dimension to the images.
There were some youngsters about but not as many as usual. The 300mm was ideal in these situations allowing a good working distance between photographer and subject.
I wanted this time to place more emphasis on some in-situ shots instead of the conventional approach. I had a remote control with me this time and was also keen to do some experimenting with other lenses.