It was the middle of July and most New Englanders were cooling off at the beach. Ted Ellis was also enjoying the surf, but in a different way. Rather than reclining on a lounge chair, Ellis was crouching upright and alert in a bird blind, snapping hundreds of photos of Atlantic puffins.
Ellis had taken a boat out to Machias Seal Island, which is off the coast of Maine. Visitors aren’t allowed to walk around on the island, and are given restricted time slots in the blinds. Ellis wanted to take a panning shot, but the blind only gave him 45 degrees of visibility. Another option soon materialized: From his vantage point in the blind, he was close enough to see the puffins interacting in the water. When one returned from a foraging trip, Ellis was able to capture its descent.
Now that he has studied the puffin colony more closely and can anticipate their movements, Ellis plans on going back to the island next July. Usually he photographs bald eagles, snowy owls, and hummingbirds—the athletes of the bird world. Which makes sense because sports were his gateway into photography; he started by taking pictures at his childrens’ tournaments. Since then it has developed into a passion: one that has won him recognition in Audubon shows and contests. Ellis says, “The key to success is practice, practice, practice; shoot, shoot, shoot.”
This image was a Top 100 photo from the 2013 Audubon Magazine Photography Awards. To see all of the photos, click here.