Story Behind The Shot: Atlantic Puffins In Machias Seal Island

[Editor's Note: This story is part of our Story Behind The Shot series. Got a great shot? Got a great story? Join The Dodo and tell us about it.]

Every year my father and I plan a vacation for nature photography. We try to pick a new location and we basically take photos, eat and sleep. That's what the trip is for. In the summer of 2010 the trip we planned was to the Jonesport area of Maine with the highlight of the trip being a visit to Machias Seal Island to photograph Atlantic Puffins and whatever else we came across.

I grew up hunting and fishing, it was a huge part of my life. As I grew older it of course became much harder to find the time to continue to do these activities with my father and the time we spent together outdoors slowly decreased with each passing year. Photography started to become a huge part of my life, and eventually my career, which helped to bring back a common activity for my father and I. We pretty much traded in hunting with guns for doing the same thing with cameras. It was a very natural progression and the end result was one of the things I loved most about hunting, enjoying the outdoors.

When we first arrived at the dock in Jonesport I didn't think there was any way we would be going on this trip, you could barely see the end of the dock it was so foggy. After a bit of waiting and chatting with the other people going on the trip, the captain showed up and informed us that we would be making the trip! My next thought being, I hope we can see the birds when we get there.

The boat ride from Jonesport Maine out to Machias Seal island is approximately 2 hours depending on the conditions. The further out from Jonesport we got, the more the skies started to clear. Conditions were starting to look much better the closer we got! At one point I noticed everyone starting to shuffle around the boat and start to look towards the front and there it was, my first sighting of Machias Seal Island. At first sight it looked so incredibly small just sitting out in the middle of the ocean. This was going to be a great day!

As we approached the island we began to see more and more birds, it wasn't long before I was seeing Atlantic Puffins right next to the boat. They were everywhere, flying, swimming, diving, it was already an incredible experience and we hadn't set foot on the island yet.

We were going onto the island!

We knew ahead of time that there was always a possibility of taking the boat ride all the way out to the island and if the water conditions were too rough, not being able to actually get on the island. The captain took the boat around the island for a little while and then finally got to the correct spot and anchored a bit off the coast. Then finally the announcement we had been waiting for, we would be landing on the island!

Once we were on the island it became obvious there were going to be a lot of birds. The view from up on the island was quite dramatic. In every direction there was nothing but water, and birds.

The next step was to be placed in one of the many blinds spread out over the island. My father and I as well as one other person followed the guide out to one of the bird blinds. It was so difficult not to stop and take photos along the way but we were kindly asked to stay with the guide. As we approached the blind all of the birds in the area took off and I began to wonder how long it would take for them to return. The three of us were closed into the blind and we began to wait. It really surprised me how quickly some of the puffins began to return to the area and before I knew it there were Atlantic Puffins directly in front of me. The photo below was one of the first I took and it really illustrates the amazing close up views you get of these magnificent birds.