We get lots of photogrpahers to the island at this time of year. Seabirds are large, striking, relatively tame and so easy to photograph and couple this with stunning backgrounds of seascapes, cliffs, carpets of thrift and sea campion and lichen encrusted rocks it draws photographers from all over Europe. There is also the puffin factor, people will travel across continents to photograph them and the Isle of May is one of the best places to achieve this. And it is a pleasure to see people connecting with the island and the beauitful images that result. But it has to be said that my heart drops when I see an array of huge lenses come off the boat because I know that there may be a challenging afternoon ahead.
To be clear most photogrpahers are exemplery on their visits to the island and treat it with respect but if you find someone off the path almost always they will have a large lens strapped to their face. For some reason the request to stick to the paths to avoid having an impact on the breeding birds doesn’t seem to apply to the photogrpahers and their desire for the perfect image means that they consider their photograph to be more important that the breeding success of their subjects. The top wildlife photographers are expert ecologists who know the lives of their subjects intimitly and use this knowledge to get better photographs but we have had photographers turn up wanting to know why the puffins aren’t carrying fish in early May (becasue they are all sitting on eggs then)or why is one gull teaching another to fly by carrying it on its back (it isn’t, its mating).
And then there is their shopping list. Many photogrpahers come to the island with a list of images that they want to capture and leave miserable at the end of their visit if they have not got that picture of puffin with dew on it head or the right number and arrangement of sandeels that they wanted, or are grumpy as the light is not quite what they wanted. And meanwhile they will have missed hundreds of spontaneously stunning sights like a tern chasing a herring gull, or backlight sea campion, or shags gleaming in the sun feeding their young.
So perhaps there is a lesson to us all there, that there is so much to see on the Isle of May that with open eyes, an enquiring mind and a bit of pateience it can be experience and recorded by anyone without having an impact of the birds and the island itself. And real life is even better than watching on the TV or looking at photos.