One of my first trips out with my new Olympus set up, I enthusiastically headed to the harbour in probably the worst weather conditions for some time, constant half light & drizzle. Well what better way than to dive straight into difficult photographic conditions with totaly new gear – it’s going to be a steep learning curve but I’ll start at the deep end. The seabirds I had been hoping to see weren’t around, but opportunistically, a trawler had just come into shelter from the stormy weather and a number of seals gathered around the boat, heads straining above the choppy waters….my first photo victims.

Atlantic Grey Seal  – Olympus 300mm prime f.4 pro lens. ISO 800, f5.6, 160/sec

First impressions were good, the auto-focus was fast & locked on to the seals quickly considering the movement of the water. I found ISO 800 my preferable limit before noise began to show too much and quality possibly began to be compromised. At this early session I was hesitant to hand-hold with low speeds, settling for  1/160 sec to try and freeze the seal in the relatively fluid, wild weather  – most shots of the seals at 100% did seem surprisingly sharp given the low shutter speed and low depth of field.

A regular Lerwick scene but gulls are a great way of practising various exposures and modes with new gear. If there is a sniff of bread, gulls often flock around the car and ‘hang out’ giving plenty of stationary subjects to practise on. ISO 800 f/5.6 1/100sec Olympus E-M1X with 300mm hand held.
Atlantic Grey Seal in choppy waters and low light – good results though a little grainy at 100%. ISO 1600, 1/250sec, f5.6.
ISO 1600, 1/320sec, f5.0. I love birds against ships, for the urban wildlife/natural abstract quality. Here the deep red ship worked well though at ISO 1600 there was notable grain with such a dark, one coloured, saturated background.
Taking an exposure reading from the bow of the ship. I was so impressed with the quality of the initial bright, pin sharp shots. Here an easy subject which didn’t move. ISO 1600, 1/400sec, f/5.6.

Most of my images are taken using continuous autofocus (C-AF) mode as a lot of the time I am working with birds, which are notoriously difficult to photograph as so often on the move, so a good, fast continuous AF is a real advantage to the bird photographer. Also, with so many of my images now take from a boat in the summer months and from the shore (or car!) of birds on the sea in the winter months, even slow birds are continuously moving on water, so also cry out for a good C-AF mode. Although early days, I have so far found the Olympus E-M1X coupled with 300mm f4 pro lens to be incredibly fast both with the initial lock on the subject and the subsequent tracking and focusing, getting a much higher hit rate than I had previously been used to with my DSLR.

A few days later whilst experimenting in the harbour, photographing swimming tysties (black guillemots) and dunters (Common Eider) flocks feeding close to shore, I started using a new mode which immediately grabbed by attention = the continuous autofocus tracking or CAF+TR. I was perhaps reluctant at first, having been dabbling and gaining confidence with fine results in the basic C-AF mode alongside enjoying the little AF joysticks to quickly alter my focal point and position of the bird in each frame. However I was really pleasantly surprised at the fast focus and continued tracking obtained in this new mode and the high percentage of good, sharp imagery.

Common Eider, a flock of males moving briskly through harbour waters 1/500 sec, f/7.1, ISO 800 C-AF mode hand-held.
A smart male Common Eider taken using the CAF+TR mode.. ISO 500, f/6.3 1/400sec. This mode was quick to hit onto the subject and continually track it in focus (for 80% + of the 10 shots taken) as it moved across the water at some speed.
This black guillemot was busy feeding close to shore. 1/320 sec, f/7.1, ISO1600 C-AF mode, hand-held.
Good detail obtained with fine droplet of water on the black guillemots back and tail even at ISO 1600. Image enlarged to 200%.
Poor weather conditions, a little wing blur but perfectly sharp head and body. Olympus E-M1X, 300mm ISO 800, 1/320 sec f/7.1

Last week we released a public notice advising our many followers, customers, friends & associates of our temporary closure in light of the current Coronavirus health crisis & our tourist-based local business. We have been inundated with such comforting comments & support & have been overwhelmed by so many people who had booked with us for 2020 happy to keep there booking in place & have it carried over to a convenient 2021 re-booking instead. We have also now produced our new gift vouchers which are £45 for 1 adult & £25 for under 16’s each. Not only does purchasing one of these vouchers mean you have a booking with the Noss Boat, to take at your convenience & in whatever year, month & day of your choice (subject to availability) but it also supports our small family business in such uncertain times. THANK YOU – SST x
info@shetlandseabirdtours.com

SHETLAND SEABIRD TOURS Ltd.
– THE NOSS BOAT –
public statement – Wednesday 18th March 2020

We are very keen to let our many customers & followers know where we stand in a world which is currently experiencing a public health & financial crisis in light of the Coronavirus (Covid-19). The Shetland Islands are unfortunately no exception with a number of cases now being confirmed & many local businesses now on hold. We are, as a family & a business (which is totally reliant on the tourist sector) taking the ever-evolving UK government & NHS advice regarding Coronavirus very seriously & have halted the start of our boat tour season which was due to start near the end of March.

It is with regret that SHETLAND SEABIRD TOURS – NOSS BOAT is now CLOSED FOR BUSINESS for the rest of MARCH, APRIL & MAY 2020. We will re-evaluate our situation during May for the rest of the 2020 Shetland tourist season & hope that more positive news & boat trips may resume later in the summer.

We will over the next few days, be contacting all of our late March, April & May PRE-BOOKED CUSTOMERS to let them know our current situation & offering the two options below:

1. A cancellation & full refund.

2. A chance to postpone your boat tour until later in the year or for a date of your choice in 2021.

The above options are also available to all our PRE-BOOKED CUSTOMERS for the rest of the 2020 seabird tour season though we will not be officially closing the JUNE-OCTOBER tours or making any decisions on our Noss Boat trips during that period until after out next evaluation in May. Obviously, we understand that many of our customers are having to cancel their 2020 trips to Shetland regardless of our own business situation. If you are able to not cancel but postpone & carry over your booking with us into 2021 we would be extremely grateful though we know this is not always an option. We understand that this is a very stressful & uncertain time for all & our thoughts go out to those affected directly by the virus or as a result of the financial implications of it. If you have any questions regarding trips with Shetland Seabird Tours Ltd. please do not hesitate to get in touch by either calling Phil & Rebecca on:
07767872260 or email us at: info@shetlandseabirdtours.com

Yours sincerely,

Rebecca Nason & Phil Harris
Shetland Seabird Tours Ltd/Noss Boat.