Coastal Otters: A wildlife photographer’s guide – Introduction

When I first tried to photograph otters, I admit to failing miserably. I also injured myself. Badly. On the very first ‘stalk’, I slipped on algae-covered rocks, tearing my calf muscle almost in two. Not great. Thankfully, I met two wonderful people who truly opened my eyes to photographing otters.

So, a word of thanks to Jerry Sutton and his wife Debs. If it wasn’t for their sage advice, all those moons ago, I’d have just floundered around on the shoreline (like too many other photographers), doing more harm than good.

This is a good lesson too. If you’re photographing an unfamiliar animal, why not seek the counsel of more experienced photographers or wildlife professionals? Get an insight. In fact, get all the help you can. Otherwise, you can do a lot of harm, even though it’s unintentional. Do your research. Don’t leave it to chance.

European Otter (Lutra lutra)
Photograph by © Elliott Neep. Photographed in Isle of Mull, United Kingdom with Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II and 600.0 mm lens at ¹⁄₂₅₀ sec at ƒ / 4.0 on ISO 400

A wildlife photographer’s guide

This guide will help you find otters and prolong your encounters. It has been compiled from hundreds (if not thousands ) of hours watching and photographing otters on the Isle of Mull, Inner Hebrides. I’ve been visiting the Isle over 15 years. It’s spread over 8 pages, all easily navigable from within each page.

  1. Introduction
  2. Ground Rules
  3. Camera Gear
  4. Finding & Approaching
  5. Useful Observations
  6. Making Mistakes
  7. Stay Safe
  8. Otter Facts

The Isle of Mull is my favourite wildlife destination in the UK. It’s teaming with wildlife and nature in abundance. Wherever you look you have the chance to see otters, seals, deer, eagles and other raptors, and dozens of species of birds. In autumn, Mull is festooned with innumerable species of fungi. The wild moorlands look almost primeval with hundreds of waterfalls, carpets of moss and gnarly oaks and birch trees dripping in lichens.

The landscape is breath-taking. Long, deep-cutting lochs, mountains, misty meadows and moorland, and gnarly old forests. It’s an amazing place for the landscape photographer. Although scenics are not my bread and butter, I’m compelled to stop in my tracks and drag out the tripod and filter pack.

Before we get to the Guide, let’s go through a few ground rules… Click for page 2: Ground Rules