Photographer Wears a Puffin Decoy To Blend in With the Real Birds

Martin Yelland Puffin Disguise

There’s the old saying that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Photographer Martin Yelland incorporated this idea in capturing images of wildlife, and it was as amusing as it was successful. While on a snorkeling trip at Skomer Island off the coast of West Wales, he donned a decoy puffin on his head while approaching the real birds swimming nearby—and it worked! Yelland attracted the curiosity of the puffins, resulting in fascinating photos that simultaneously feature a viewpoint in and out of the water.

In addition to a puffin decoy attached to his head, Yelland had more decoys that could move freely throughout the waters. “We were told to move the decoys about,” Yelland explained, “and this is what drew the puffins close by. It was one of the best things I have ever done.” The “magical encounter” highlights Skomer Island, known for its puffin colony. In 2015, there were over 20,000 individual birds within the 1.1-square-mile nature reserve.

Yelland has always had a special bond with the water. “I used to do lots of surf photography and released my own UK bodyboard DVD in 2008,” he tells My Modern Met, “before discovering a passion for wildlife on a surf trip that went flat, back in 2016.”

Yelland’s wildlife photography has led the way to other work about animals. He and his wife, Zoë-Elissa George Yelland, write children’s books based on the photographer’s pictures. He is the author and Zoë is the illustrator. The books are available to purchase on their website, Chough Rock Books.

Photographer Martin Yelland became a wildlife photographer on a surf trip that “went flat” in 2016.

Martin Yelland

One of his latest trips involved snorkeling at Skomer Island, where he donned a puffin decoy in order to capture photos of the birds.

Puffin Decoys

Puffin Decoys

In addition to the decoy on his head, he also set off floating decoys.

Puffin Decoys

Puffin Flying

It worked! Yelland attracted the curiosity of the puffins, resulting in fascinating photos that simultaneously feature a viewpoint in and out of the water.

Puffin Decoys

Puffins Swimming

Puffin Flying

Yelland and his wife, Zoë-Elissa George Yelland, write children’s books based on the photographer’s pictures and publish them through their own company, Chough Rock Books.

Martin Yelland

Martin Yelland: Instagram
Chough Rock Books: Website 

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Martin Yelland.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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