Machias Seal Island

Discussion in 'Nature' started by jeff_plomley|1, Jul 20, 2003.

  1. I will be heading to Machias Seal Island off the East Coast of Maine
    to photograph Atlantic Puffins next Thursday. I was wondering if any participants that have visited this island could relay their
    experiences. For example, how close were the birds to the blind?
    Were you able to get a fill flash out from the hide? What focal
    lengths did you find most useful?

    Thanks in advance for all responses.
  2. When I was there a few years ago, it was difficult to land on the island, since it had no real dock. Our small motorboat brought us to a rusty old dock structure with no real deck or floor - therefore, shoes with a good gripping tread which will not be harmed by salt water are the number one requirement. In addition, make sure that you can easily step agilely from the motorboat to the shore structure. Once on the island, you will be divebombed by terns who resent your presence so close to their nests, so wear a hat or maybe carry an umbrella to prevent their fecal bombs from landing on your person.

    You will walk (quickly) to one of the two blinds, where you will remain for a couple of hours, more or less. Do not be concerned about whether the puffins will be close enough: you will be surrounded by puffins, virtually immersed in puffins, puffins all around you, on top of the blinds and right up to the blinds. I found that a 300 mm lens and occasional use of a 1.4x converter could yield portraits of puffins. In fact, I would recommend having something like a 70-200 as well in order to easily get full-length shots of puffins.

    When I was there, there was no room in the blinds to use a tripod - a monopod may be feasible, but it was easier and faster to brace the press the lens against some part of the blind opening and stabilize it that way. The weather is quite iffy there, so you may have clouds and drizzle (bring some fast film) or it may be bright and sunny, so you can use a fast shutter speed.

    In any case, there is also not much room in the blinds to mess around with equipment too much, so make sure you can access your film and accessories easily. You will not have enough time in your visit to take all the shots that are available to you, so prepare to make the most of the time you have and maximize your return.

    In any case, it is a wonderful place to visit, especially if you are as besotted by puffins as I am. You might want to schedule two days of visits if you have the time and money. I wish I had, and I would return in a heartbeat! BTW, I have a few of my pictures of puffins taken at Machias Seal Island here on p.n. They may give you some idea of the variety available there. Enjoy your trip; wish I could be there!
  3. Jeremy pretty much summed it up - good advice.
    I have a trip report from when I was there on my site; Machias Seal Island
    It is a good idea to have a couple of days planned just in case weather won't allow you to get out there. Weather can also severely limit the time you have on the island.
    Going a second day will also allow you to go to the second set of blinds and give you a little different setting. We weren't allowed to rotate blinds at all - once they stuck you in one - you were there for the duration.
  4. Which boat trip are you taking, there are two guys operating and
    the best guy to go with is Bara Norton...he prides himself on
    getting onto the island (weather conditions permittimg). Bring
    good boots and a hat / hood. I brought my tripod and mounted
    my RZ 67 with 180mm telephoto, yes it was tight but I worked. I
    shot 5x 220 rolls (100 exposures) in the time I was there so with
    36exp bring at least five rolls ten would be better, 100asa. My
    180 =90 in 35mm terms and I'd say a 70-200 would be perfect.
    There's a lighthouse there too but you are close to it so a wide
    lens would be needed. Between trips into the blind you might get
    a chance to shoot it. I got a couple of good shots and ended up
    with one calendar publication out of it more than paid for
    my trip.
  5. I have a page about my visit to the island here. I shot with a 300 and that produced the results you see on my page.
  6. Jeff, because of space limitations inside the blinds I used a bean bag very effectively with my 500 lens. In fact most of us who were there had to pack up our tripods and keep them away. A bean bag is extremely useful there.
  7. Jeff,

    You have already gotten quite a bit of good information. I agree that timing and good weather are important ... what is new? !!!!! A blue sky is a better background to photopgraph Puffins. Better to book the trip for several days and go when the weather is the best. I would just give my reservations up during a cloudy and foggy day and go at prime conditions.

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