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Puffin Photography

Updated: May 26, 2020

Photographing Puffins in Wales

After admiring puffins from afar for a long while, I decided it was about time that I ventured off to try and photograph some. My trip was in June which coincided with the time of year when the puffins should be bringing sand eels back to their young: the pufflings. Pretty cute name for the puffins offspring. Although the beginning of the week started off with lots of puffin sightings, puffins bringing back sand eels were pretty thin on the ground. However by mid-week more of the young must have hatched, as more and more of the adults were bringing back the fish. This lead to more interaction between the circling gulls and the puffins: given half the chance the gulls would swoop in to steal the puffins haul of fish. It meant the puffins had to be pretty quick to enter their burrows before the gulls had the opportunity to attack. Despite this there were a few puffins who had obviously landed but were a bit disorientated trying to find their burrows. This gave a quick photo opportunity to get a photo of the puffin with sand eels in its beak before found its burrow again, hopefully without a gull finding it first.

Before seeing the puffins I hadn't appreciated how fast they flew: at speeds of around 55mph! This meant capturing a photo of one in flight was pretty tricky. The top tips I would give to do this would be to watch the puffins for a little while and see what flight route they seem to be taking. Then track a puffin as it is heading to land, manually focusing on a point that you think the puffin may pass. Then its just a waiting game for a puffin to pass that point and shoot away as quickly as you can. I found that auto focus wasn't really quick enough to capture a sharp image, but you can always experiment with it and see how your camera copes. I was using an aperture of around 6.3, with a shutter speed of around 1/2000 sec.

Although the puffins were the main draw for me the island I visited was beautiful. There were a vast array of wild flowers, and a great vista to watch the sunset.


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