This monochrome portrait of an Atlantic Puffin was taken on a trip I took to Skomer Island, Wales (UK) in May 2021.
The Atlantic Puffin or the clown among seabirds is one of the world's favourite birds. With half of the UK population at only a few sites it is a Red List species. Puffins are facing a perilous future. Population numbers have fallen sharply, and there are even fears this sea bird could be heading towards extinction within the next 100 years.
There are a number of reasons why their numbers have declined so significantly, but the main and most alarming cause is the reduction in their food supply, particularly as a result of increased sea temperatures.
Monitoring efforts need to continue worldwide to better understand factors affecting populations. Hopefully with conservation efforts measures can be put in place to minimise pollution, reduce introduced predators and promote sustainable harvesting to try and ensure that the fate of this wonderful bird is not the same as that of the dodo.
These factors motivated me to photograph a close-up and classic monochrome portrait of this elegant bird, to help raise awareness to its current perilous state. As this bird has an extremely colourful and vibrant beak, it's very rare to see monochrome images of them. I thought taking a classic monochrome portrait would be a little bit different from the usual and would help the portrait stand out even further.
During my trip, I spent two full days taking hundreds of photos of these Puffins. In the vast majority of them, the background was either emerald, from the ocean or green from the surrounding landscape on Skomer island.
I really wanted all the features of the Puffin to stand out, so I decided that a dark background would work best for the image I wanted to achieve. I saw an opportunity when the light was shining on one of the puffins and the cliff in the background was in the shade. As the puffin stood still for a few brief moments, I was able to position myself at the right distance and find the perfect spot on the background that was completely dark and with no distractions. I only had enough time to take 2 or 3 frames with different compositions and this final image was my favourite one and the one which worked best for the image I wanted to achieve.
Although I do like spending a good amount of time post-processing my images, this photo was relatively simple to edit as the background (distant cliff in the distance in the shade) was already dark and I was satisfied with the overall exposure. I did a monochrome conversion, then brought down the shadows in the background a little further and applied selective dodge and burning to the Puffin to emphasize some of their details and highlights/shadows even further.