Photographing Arctic Terns on The Farne Islands
It’s that time of year again, the time to go onto the Farne Islands to photograph puffins, razorbills and guillemots and of course the arctic tern. From May 1st the full day trips start operating as well as the half day trips. It is possible to get very close to these aggressive birds. They will attack at every opportunity when you get close to their nests. The nests are sometimes actually on the footpath, usually roped off by the National Trust wardens and care is needed when the eggs hatch not to stand on the tiny chicks as they leave the nest and wander around.
The lens size needed to photograph the terns is quite small, 50mm to 135mm is usually big enough. Hand held image stabilized lenses are better for this type of photography.
The birds sit on the posts which cordon off the path from the grass edges where most of the terns nest. They will hover above very close and do unspeakable things on your hat and coat and peck at your head.
A fast shutter speed is required for the flight shots, speed in excess of 1000th/second will normally freeze the action. Exposure can be a problem on a sunny day because of the light colours of the feathers and light background of the flying tern. Under exposure by as much as two stops can give you the feather detail you require. The best day for this type of photography is a bright overcast day, this can give better definition on the feathers without burning out the white feather detail.. Very dramatic results can be obtained with the flying terns, some of my results can be seen below.
If you are visiting the area you should take time out to visit the Farne Islands, it’s a memorable day whether you are a photographer, bird watcher or just an interested passer by, the birds are a great spectacle and I don’t think anybody would be disapointed with their visit.
The boat trips run from Seahouses on the Northumberland Coast. There are a number of boat operators notably Billy Shiels, (01665 720308) his boats are called Glad Tidings or Hanveys (01665 720388) these boats are called St Cuthbert.
If you are going have a great day.