25 May 2020

An Unexpected Love Affair: Northern Gannets on Helgoland

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I booked a workshop on Helgoland…just got kind of talked into it…I wasn’t into bird photography and didn’t even know what Northern Gannets looked like. I wanted to see this tiny rocky German offshore island in the Northern Sea and test my new camera and telephoto zoom lenses…and then I fell in love with these magnificent birds which live as lifelong couples.



Every year they meet in spring to build their nests and raise their chicks. When the chicks leave the nest the parents go separate ways until they meet again the following spring. There is a lot of interaction going on between the birds. The couples greet each other upon arriving, they clean each other and huddle closely. The birds collect nesting material from the sea or try to steel some stuff from their neighbors which often leads to hissing, biting and chasing. It’s interesting, fun and sometimes quite touching to watch them from really close. And taking their pictures is an exciting and rewarding task.


In the meantime Helgoland has become one of these places where I love to return time and again… it’s not only that I consider my stay there a kind of training camp for my long distance trips like Brazil, Costa Rica or Japan. With every visit I feel that I’m getting to know the birds a little better and with this growing intimacy my perspective, my photographic approach also seems to change and challenge me in a new and different way…


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