As I made the two hour drive north, I started to repeat the mantra 'ignore the puffins, ignore the puffins'. I wasn't suffering from to much northern daylight but was traveling to catch the 9am boat from Vardo to the sea bird colonies on Hornoya Island. The mantra repeating continued,to try ward off 'Puffin Fever' on landing, as I took the ten minute inflatable boat journey across a calm but dark sea. 'Puffin Fever' is a common affliction of photographers visiting sea bird colonies and has the main symptom of becoming completely absorbed in photographing these charismatic and colourful birds. The danger of the 'fever' is that it is painless and enjoyable and results in an absence of photos of the other wonderful seabirds present. All my target species were decidedly non-puffin.
On landing I took the path to the south which skirts round and upwards to the lighthouse. It turned in to a bit of hike. On reaching the top there were a few puffins on ledges just over the cliff edge. Razorbill were the only other species on offer and I resisted the pull of the 'fever' and took a few photographs.
It was at this point I made the mistake of thinking it would do no harm and may ward off the 'fever' just to take a couple of puffin photographs before I went off around the other side of the island to search for my target species.
As I made my way back around the island fully loaded with camera kit I came to a long flight of wooden stairs. I stepped on to the first step at the top only to see my legs suddenly appear from underneath me and horizontally in front of me. I am not sure how but I manage to stop the fall about three steps further down. If I hadn't it would of been messy, a lucky escape from serious injury.
When I reached the far side of the island and to the base of a high vertical it became quickly obvious that my target species were high up on the cliff face and out of camera range. Meanwhile hundreds of puffins were streaming in around me from the sea and the 'fever' took hold. I thought I would try something I had want to do for a while which was take a couple of photographs using a wide angle lens to get images of birds in the landscape. I had forgotten how close you have to get to your subject with a 24-70mm lens as I crawled up the side of an enormous boulder to a bird perched on the top. The bird standing proud over its offshore domain.
As the sun broke through the overcast sky all I could see everywhere was puffins as the 'fever' had firmly taken its grip. I thought I would take some flight photos given the sun was showing but the skies were still a grey-white which was not going to make for an attractive background. So as an alternative I thought I would use the vertical cliff as a backdrop to the passing puffins. The side lighting from the sun was not ideal and made for some difficult camera exposure settings but had the benefit of adding a bit of drama to the images and a dark background from the cliff-face.
Before walking away to see what else I could find, I noticed some back-lit puffins which deserved some attention as their beaks appeared to be really glowing.
It then started to rain and the back-lighting through the falling water created a magical scene.
Fortunately the falling rain extinguished the 'fever' and it was now time to see what else the island had to offer but that will have to wait until the next blog post.