Coastal Otters: A wildlife photographer’s guide – Stay Safe

Photographing coastal otters can be very hazardous. Do not approach this light-heartedly. It takes real dedication, persistence, and commitment to realise your goals. You need to be methodical in preparation and as sure-footed as a mountain goat.

It can be treacherous slipping around in the rocks. If you are alone and you slip and crack your head, you may never be found. Scottish coastlines are infamous for their changeable weather, quick-developing storms, and strong currents. Always be prepared for the worse with all-weather clothing, towel, change of dry clothing, first aid, mobile phone, hot drinks and food.

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 ¹⁄₃₂₀ sec at ƒ / 6.3 on ISO 200

Working in pairs

I often feel that it’s best to work in pairs when photographing coastal otters, especially as I routinely work alone and appreciate the difference it makes. This could be two photographers or one photographer and one spotter.

This method can be highly advantageous as it’s easy to be blindsided by otters as you approach the shore. They can disappear very quickly. Having another pair of eyes higher up on the shore will help direct you when you lose sight.

It can also be a good excuse to go out photographing wildlife with your other half, at the same time, making them feeling involved! The additional safety backup with having two people is obviously advantageous.