Blog

Photographers on Safari/Bass Rock

Sea Bird Photographic workshop on Bass Rock off the Scottish coast
11/06/2008
This was a planned two day workshop again hosted by the excellent Photographers on Safari aka John Wright.

Day 1 started off with a pleasant if damp sea crossing from Dunbar Harbour to Bass Rock which took just under an hour which was a good opportunity to chat to other photographers and share experiences. A good tip here was to remember to cover kit and photographer in waterproof clothing BEFORE setting off ! Thank goodness for John and his supply of plastic bags.

We knew there was a planned stop just off the island to feed fish to the birds but no description could prepare you for the spectacular sight of 100's of Gannets and other sea birds plummetting into the water all around the boat. Dont expect a high photo success rate and make sure you take some time to stand back and watch the spectacle around you with the sky and surf literally boiling with frenzied activity.

It has to be noted how much care John ,the crew and Maggie (our local guide and as it soon became apparent, total expert and fountain of knowledge of our chosen subject) took of us all, ensuring we and our kit landed safely on the Bass Rock and this continued throughout the day

We then began to climb rows of steps as they zig zagged back and forth up the rock but this was nowhere as daunting as it first looked and the fact that we were climbing through thousands of birds made it a pleasure.

Once we reached a certain point we stopped and spent some time taking in the incredible seabird colony all around us where we were literally within a couple of feet of the majestic and deceptively large gannets.

Despite the temptation to rush around, camera in hand, take some time to sit and savour and observe the birds and you soon begin to notice flight patterns and behaviour which straight away improves your photography.

To be able to sit within inches of these magnificent birds, to see chicks chipping their way out of eggs and to have chicks of a few days old walking around your carefully placed feet was incredible.

One thing you quickly realise is that the birds are very accurate with their guano bombing- Dont worry it washes off eventually but dont think of bringing your newest clothes !

Although the weather was very changeable and at times very wet this did nothing to dampen our spirits and the day went so fast that when Maggie said we had to start making our way down to the quay several of our number were tempted to run and hide just to get a few more minutes in this wonderful place.

Tired but happy we made our way back to Dunbar harbour but one more surprise remained in the form of a large seal who followed us into the harbour, standing upright in the water to say goodbye to us all.

One thing that needs to be appreciated with such offshore photography is that weather and tide must dictate our safety and sadly this was to get the better of the second planned day to Staple and Inner Farne islands a short journey back down the coast into Northumberland to the village of Seahouses.

The glorious start to the next day soon gave way to strong winds and as I drove along the coast road watching the Kite Surfers leaping high into the air I began to fear my much longed for trip to be amongst the puffins was in danger and so it proved to be, with sea and wind conditions too extreme to attempt the crossing.

Despite such bad news I was very impressed with Johns reaction.He was waiting on the quay , chequebook in hand giving immediate and full refunds to everyone. Beat that for service !

A fantastic trip which sadly the weather cut short and sometimes the photography didnt go according to plan but the whole experience was fantastic, with the privalaged access to Bass Rock and Maggies expertise.

I will get to photograph those pesky puffins !!