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Birds of the Shetland Islands with Tom Dyring and Brydon Thomason

26 June – 2 July 2023

Location: Shetland Islands


Join renowned wildlife photographer Tom Dyring and local bird expert and bird photographer Brydon Thomason on a bird tour of the Shetland Islands. Not only do the Shetland Islands offer a beautiful and dramatic landscape, it’s also a paradise for bird photographers. On this photography holiday, you have the opportunity to photograph everything from the iconic puffin to thousands of guillemots, razorbills, petrels, great skuas and gannets make their nests. We will visit the Hermaness Nature Reserve which is world famous for its spectacular colonies of gannets.

two gannets in the shetland islands

Image: Tom Dyring


  • The beautiful and dramatic landscape of the Shetland Islands.
  • Photographing puffins in spectacular scenery at Sumburgh Head and on the island of Noss.
  • Hermaness Nature Reserves colonies of gannets and spectacular bird cliffs.
  • Boat trips to see diving gannets.
  • Thousands of nesting birds including guillemots, razorbills, puffins, petrels, skuas, and Northern gannets.
  • Lectures and workshops from Tom Dyring and Brydon Thomason.
Birds of the shetland islands

Image: Tom Dyring

Shetland Islands itinerary

As the weather in the Shetland Islands is very varied and can change very quickly, the day programme will be determined on site based on weather and wind.

Day 1 (26/6) – Arrival

Gathering at Sumburgh Airport in the afternoon where you will be met by Tom Dyring, Brydon Thomason and a representative from Zoom Photo Tours. From the airport, we head to Sumburgh Hotel to check in. We will begin with a lecture from Tom and Brydon. They will take you into the world of bird photography, with pictures from some of the places we will visit during the trip. They will show you what you should consider in your image creation. After the lecture, dinner will be served at the hotel before heading to Sumburgh Head and its dramatic scenery to photograph puffins up close. These often sit on a cliff edge giving our images a stunning backdrop of cliffs and the sea stretching towards the horizon. When the sun starts to set, we return to the hotel. (D)

Day 2 (27/6) – Bird life around Sumburgh Head

Today we will explore the southern part of the island for species such as whimbrels, phalarope, or endemic subspecies of Shetland wrens. We will also get to photograph the iconic Shetland Pony. In the evening we return to Sumburgh Hotel for dinner. (B, L, D)

Day 3 (28/6) – Boat trip with diving Northern Gannets

After photographing the puffins in the soft morning light and breakfast, it’s time to check out and head towards the town of Lewerick. By boat, we leave the port of Lewerick for one of the main highlights of the trip, the west side of the Isle of Noss with 15,000 nesting gannets. Out on the water, we can have the opportunity of taking pictures from a completely new perspective.

Up close, we can now photograph the spectacular moment when the gannets plunge into the water to catch fish. Tom is with you throughout the boat trip to show you what to consider in order to best capture the movement of the birds diving down into the waves. In the afternoon we will check in at the Queens Hotel in Lerwick followed by photo editing and image criticism. Tom will also hold a lecture on his work as a nature photographer. (B, L, D)

Day 4 (29/6) – Noss Nature Reserve

We leave Lerwick in the morning for a five-minute boat crossing to the island of Bressay. After a short drive over to the island we meet a park ranger from Noss National Nature Reserve, who will take us over to Noss in his Zodiac boat. Upon arrival at Noss, we reach the steep cliffs and an inspiring seascape awaits us as well as lots of puffins and thousands of gannets. This trip offers completely new photo perspectives with high cliffs and nesting gannets. Back in Lerwick we continue towards the northern part of Mainland where we check in and have dinner at the Brae Hotel. (B, L, D)

boat trip on shetland islands to see flying gannets

Image: Tom Dyring

Day 5 (30/6) – Yell and Unst

Early in the morning we move on to the second largest island in the Shetland Islands, Yell. The island attracts visitors with rolling and pristine grasslands sloping down towards the long beaches, but also with its fascinating bird life. The island is one of the best places in Europe to photograph skuas on land.

In the afternoon we continue to the northernmost island of the Shetland Islands, Unst, and Hermaness National Nature Reserve. Hermaness which with its large colonies of soles offers an incredible birdlife. Overlooking Muckle Flugga, Britain’s northernmost point, Hermaness offers an oasis for thousands of seabirds. After about an hour’s walk through the grassy marshland we reach the western cliffs where numerous seabirds including fulmars, gulls, 20,000 gannets, puffins and kittiwakes make their nests. This is a paradise for bird photographers.

In the evening we check in at the Baltasound Hotel, the UK’s northernmost hotel. This will be our base for the next two nights. After dinner we will go through our picture harvest and Tom will provide some constructive image criticism. (B, L, D)

Day 6 (1/7) – The coolest bird cliff in Europe

In the morning we continue to explore the Hermaness National Park. The area is an oasis of rich bird life and world famous for its large colonies of Northern gannets. Like previous sessions, Tom is available on hand to help you develop as a photographer through personal guidance. If the opportunity is given, Tom will also give a couple of common practical tutorials where he shows how he thinks when creating images.

If the weather permits, we will head out to sea again in the afternoon for new photo opportunities. From our boat we can point our cameras at the nature of Hermanus and zoom in on Europe’s most spectacular bird cliff. Looking up from the rolling sea towards the steep cliffs while being greeted by the sound of thousands of birds is as magnificent a nature experience as it is a photo experience. Back at our hotel we have dinner and talk about all the photo opportunities of the day. Before dinner, you can submit two pictures to compete for the best pictures of the trip, from which Tom will chose “Image of the trip” after dinner. The winning image automatically advances to the final of the ”Image of the year 2023” competition. (B, L, D)

Day 7 (2/7) – Return home

Our last day in this dramatic Bird Paradise begins with another visit to Hermaness, whose rich bird life always delivers good photo opportunities. Perhaps we can also photograph some of the area’s many Shetland ponies. Afterwards, we head south towards Sumburgh and the airport. On the way there we will make a photo stop at the old castle ruins at Muness where we will also have a picnic lunch. Afterwards we continue to the airport for flights home. (B, L)

gannets underwater

Image: Tom Dyring

Price: £2,095/$2,490

What’s included?

  • Bus transportation according to the programme.
  • Boat tours
  • Accommodation in a shared twin room (single room supplement £395 or $465)
  • Meals according to itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • All photo activities according to the program
  • Participation from Tom Dyring during the trip.
  • Participation of Brydon Thomason during the trip.
  • English-speaking travel host from Zoom Photo Tours
  • Hotel and other local taxes
  • Travel documents and other travel information

Excluded: Transport to location, personal expenses and travel insurance

Fly to The Shetland Islands by your own devices. You should be at the Sumburgh Airport later than around 15.30 on June 26th and do not book your return flight until around 14.30 on July 2nd.

What should I bring?

  • A camera
  • Lenses: we suggest telephoto lenses up to a 500mm, wide-angle lenses like 24-70mm and mid-size lens like 70-200m
  • A tripod or a monopod
  • Extra batteriers, chargers etc
  • Rain cover for the camera
  • A laptop with image editing software.

A more detailed equipment list will be provided in the information material you will receive prior to the trip.

two birds on shetland islands

Image: Tom Dyring

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