Fantastic what can I say!! I am a member of the Chorley Photographic Club and within our Monthly newsletter was a link to Andy Davies' website and his available photography workshops. On viewing Andy's website I saw that he had a wealth of experience in this field and had also travelled and worked abroad in conservation and photography both of which interest me.
I had always wanted to go on a Wildlife Photography Course so decided to book the course to Skomer Island as I had never seen Puffins before other than on the television or in a book and the more remote and wilder the better. Andy provided me with lots of information relating to locally recommended accommodation, so on the 11th May 2010 I started my 210 mile journey south through Wales to the coast and then down to Pembrokeshire.
On arrival at Marloes I settled in for the evening only to have a call from Andy stating that he had spoken to the skipper of the boat and it looked like it would be impossible to get to the island due to the wind direction and instead we would probably be going to Manor House Wildlife Park. He said that he would check again in the morning with the skipper and call me to confirm. I have to say I was slightly disappointed at that stage as I was so looking forward to getting up close with the Puffins, but hey it was still going to be a good day having tuition from a Professional Wildlife Photographer. I had lots of questions!!
The following morning I awoke early and the sun was blazing into the tent and the air was still, Andy called and the trip to Skomer was on. My ticket for access to Skomer had been reserved on the first crossing of the day and the last boat back which gave us all day to get the pictures we wanted. The tuition started immediately on meeting Andy, finding out what I wanted to achieve by the end of the day, what did I know already, what did I generally take photographs of, what I knew about camera modes and settings, histograms etc. Andy was also very informative about his surroundings and environment as well as the use of the camera. On the trip over on the boat he explained what we would be doing in the morning. We also had access to the library in the warden's house over lunch so we could look at my mornings attempts to capture the birds and the landscape.
On arrival at the Island we had a safety talk from the Warden and some Do's and Don'ts before being allowed to continue with our day. We headed towards the Wick and the Puffins. The Island looks as though it has a bad case of Acne, there are so many burrows the surface looks lumpy although to cater for the Rabbits, Puffins and the 120,000 pairs of Shearwaters that roost underground on the island its not surprising.
On arriving at the Wick I had my first sight of a Puffin, WOW!!, magnificent colours but I didn't realise that they were so small and getting so close to a wild bird you wouldn't believe. A number of times I had to stand up from a lying position on the floor to allow Puffins that had just returned from the sea past me to get to their burrows....absolutely amazing. Andy walked me through camera settings, composition, use of histograms, light compensation and positioning of the subject and capturing the characteristics and nest building, burrow digging antics and courtship of the birds.
During lunch we headed back to the Wardens library to break out the laptop and look at the pictures taken so far then headed off to discover other parts of the Island. The afternoon was taken up by me trying to put into practice all Andy had shown me from the morning session and me asking all the questions I could to try and glean as much information as possible from someone who has vast amounts of experience in this field. The afternoon consisted of taking some landscape shots, the bluebells were just starting to show, Great Black Backed Gulls, Kittiwakes, Guillemot, Razorbill and Rabbits were just some of the subjects of the afternoon.
Andy is a real genuine guy with a great passion for the subject of photography, wildlife and conservation and I am in NO doubt that some of the things I learnt during my visit to Skomer Island will make me a better photographer.
If you have the chance to extend your stay as I did then the Coastal footpath from Marloes is well worth the walk to again put into practice some of the camera skills I had learnt the day before. What a fantastic part of the world!!
Thanks again to Andy and his family